Viola Jimulla with some of her baskets, c. 1960 Photo courtesy Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe
The Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe Basketry
The Yavapai Indians have created some of the most
beautiful basketry the world has ever seen, yet very little is
recorded of their art. Today's descendants of these remarkable
weavers are trying to recover the artistry of their ancestors,
which has nearly reached extinction. The art of basketry is not
only representative of Yavapai women, but also illustrates the
protection that Yavapai men -- Yavapai Scouts -- afforded the women
so that they could practice their art form. A new generation of
Yavapai are researching the basket collections preserved in the
nation's museums, and are participating in Yavapai basketweaving
classes to learn the craft of their ancestors.
For thousands of years, the Yavapai lived within a
territory encompassing over nine million acres, including what is
now central and western Arizona. Except for occasional skirmishes
with other tribes on their northern and southern borders, they
lived in peace for thousands of years until the 1860s, when they
fought, in self-protection, the Anglo settlers who had mistakenly
identified them as Apaches and attacked them at every opportunity.
In 1871, Gen. George Crook ordered that all "roving Apaches" be
placed on the Rio Verde Reservation. Making no attempt to
distinguish the Yavapai from the Apaches, federal troops forced
Yavapai onto the reservation, massacring many in the process.
Members of the tribe from the Prescott area were moved again, by
forced march, during the spring of 1875 to the San Carlos Apache
Indian Reservation, where food and water were scarce. Many died of
malnutrition, disease and illness. A few Yavapai had managed to
escape during the earlier forced march, and returned to the
Prescott area where they settled near Ft. Whipple.
In the early 1900s, when Indians were first permitted
to leave the reservations, eight Yavapai families settled in the
Prescott area. Sam Jimulla was appointed as the chief; he and his
wife Viola had been born in captivity on the San Carlos
Reservation. Viola Jimulla (1878-1966), who after the death of her
husband became tribal chieftess, was a prodigious basketmaker who
strove to keep the art of weaving alive. On June 7, 1935, the
Yavapai-Prescott Indian Reservation was established on 75 acres of
land transferred from the old Ft. Whipple, creating the only
reservation for Yavapai Indians. Over the years, an additional 1320
acres were added to the reservation, due to the increasing size of
the cattle herd. Current day Yavapais hope to build a Yavapai
Indian Cultural Center in Prescott to help their children and
visitors learn more about their tribe's unique place in the history
of the Southwest and to keep their language and culture alive.
The project includes a 19-page narrative interwoven
with the Yavapai creation story and oral histories of elderly
members of the tribe and their memories of basketmaking; the report
is augmented with a bibliography. Also included are twenty-two 8 x
10 photographs and an information brochure on the Yavapai-Prescott
Originally submitted by: John McCain, Senator.
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.