ORME DAM THREATENS YAVAPAI

The Yavapai Indian community at Fort McDowell is struggling to keep its land. The proposed Orme Dam, to be built at the confluence of the Salt and Verde Rivers some 25 miles northeast of Phoenix, would flood the entire Fort McDowell Yavapai Reservation.

The traditional village area, including homes, four churches, cemetery, a new gymnasium, rodeo grounds, farms, pastures, baseball diamonds, water supply, and the ruins of historic Fort McDowell would be inundated as well as a Phoenix water facility which employs a dozen Fort McDowell residents, extensive mesquite woodlands, active nesting sites of the bald eagle, hundreds of important archeological sties, and the last stretches of free-flowing river in Central Arizona which provide low cost recreation to 10,000 people per day on summer weekends. The dam would also necessitate the forced relocation of most of the Yavapai people.

The surviving Yavapai of Fort McDowell (whom the federal government still calls "Mohave-Apache") number about 550 men, women and children. If Orme Dam is built it will sound the death knell for the Yavapai culture by eliminating the rich river-bottom land which is the basis for the productivity and stability of the reservation.

The impact of relocation of the Yavapai people would be devastating. Studies have shown that relocation of traditional communities results in the premature death of people of all ages, particularly the elderly, and that relocated communities usually disintegrate. The very survival of the Yavapai as a people is at stake.

In 1976 the Fort McDowell Yavapai Indian voted overwhelmingly to reject the Orme Dam in a referendum vote. The Yavapai's opposition is based on economic, social, and cultural grounds. In 1977 the Carter Administration deleted the Orme Dam from the federal appropriations bill along with several other "hit listed" water projects. However, political pressure from the Arizona congressional delegation, particularly Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ), Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-AZ) and Rep. John Rhodes (R-AZ) led to the reconsideration of Orme Dam and alternatives in a multi-million dollar project, the Central Arizona Water Control Study.

The Central Arizona Water Control Study will be making its recommendation to the Commissioner of Reclamation and Secretary of the Interior James Watt by the end of October 1981. Because of special political and business interests which would derive the benefits of the dam, the study will probably recommend its construction, even though other less costly methods would provide flood control and regulatory storage.

 

The proposed Orme Dam represents a continuing encroachment on the land base and self-determination of all Native American communities. The Orme Alternatives Coalition, a consortium of organizations that support the Fort McDowell community in its struggle to keep its land are urging concerned individuals to:

1) Write to the Fort McDowell Yavapai Indian Community and ask to be placed on a mailing list:

Fort McDowell Yavapai Indian Community

P.O. Box 17779

Fountain Hills, AZ 85268

2) Send a letter to:

Secretary of Interior

James Watt

Dept. of the Interior

Washington, D.C. 20515

Article copyright Cultural Survival, Inc.

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