Submitted By: Don Decker, YAN Public Relations/News
This year’s Exodus saw many members of the Nation return for the festivities on February 25 in Camp Verde. Some members came as far away as Texas and Nevada.
Beginning with a pageant on February 18, which brought in new royalty (see related story in this issue) who represent the Nation throughout the year. The Miss Yavapai-Apache Nation pageant was held in Middle Verde and new royalty were named as judges Suzette Dawdy, Katherine Marquez, Josephine Sawyer, Michelle Ayalla and Sharon Loring had a nice evening judging the contestants including a talent exhibition. Karla Reimer, tribal secretary and Darlene Manuel, payroll technician, tabulated the scores submitted by the judges.
Marley Juan, outgoing Miss Yavapai-Apache Nation expressed her appreciation to the crowd and acknowledged her participation this past year.
“It has been a honor and a privilege to serve you. I am proud to have been your queens to respect my people. If it weren’t for every person in this room, my title would have no purpose. The message I would like leave for you—fight for what you believe in, fight for what is right,” she said.
The following, Friday on February 24, the Nation’s elders were honored with a well-prepared luncheon by the U.N.I.T.Y. (United Native Indian Tribal Youth) under the sponsorship of Maureen Romero, Nation’s member.
This luncheon also honored each elder with special gifts from the Nation through Margie Campos, special events coordinator the public relations department.
The Day Care Center, with Ophelia Tewanina, manager of the Day Care Center and staff members, brought specially made table center-pieces for the elder luncheon that featured homemade decoupage candle-lit glass light boxes wrapped with delicate ribbons with flickering miniature light bulbs that highlighted the translucent historical black and white photographs of Yavapai and Apache people taken during the 1800s. These light boxes became prized possessions of those sitting at the tables who were fortunate to grab one to take home.
Elders were joined by community and council members for the luncheon. Chairwoman Jane Russell-Winiecki and Vice Chairman Larry Jackson, Sr. were attending an out-of-town meeting that day.
That Friday night, after the elder luncheon, Apache spiritual leaders Harold Kenton of San Carlos and Manuel Cooley of Whiteriver sang for a social dance upriver in the community of Middle Verde. A huge bonfire was set after sundown which lit up the entire dance grounds and parking area. Before long, community members joined in with traditional dancing as the singers provided a musical crescendo that got many people off of their feet.
The following day, early Saturday morning at 6 a.m., brought early risers to a gathering inside of Boynton Canyon 5 miles west of Sedona with medicine people at the special site for the Yavapai and Apache located behind the Enchantment Resort.
Songs were sung and messages from spiritual leaders (Apache with Manuel Cooley and Yavapai Raphael Bear of Ft. McDowell) were shared with attendees. Members of the Enchantment Resort team served hot drinks and bakery for visitors as they were greeted by a warm camp fire on the east side of the fence.
Back at the gathering site in Camp Verde below the casino, a march began at 10 a.m. to commemorate the ‘Exodus ‘ of people and the eventual return to Verde Valley at the turn of the century in 1900. The march was led by the same spiritual leaders who were present in Boynton Canyon earlier that morning..
From the north parking lot west of the present casino hotel, the marchers began down the Middle Verde Road toward the culture center across from the Nation’s hotel. Approximately 100 people marched as the singers and drummers walked along in cadence to the songs. Four Yavapai and 4 Apache songs were sung alternately during the march to the culture center
Royalty from various Nations held up the huge banner in front of the marchers as they finally arrived in the parking lot of the culture center where they were greeted by long distance runners (‘Spirit’ and ‘Exodus” runners).
The runners had just arrived that morning at 8:30 in Camp Verde from San Carlos and from the junction of Highway 260 and Rt. 87 30 miles east of Camp Verde.
There was a feeling of celebration and remembrance as visitors and community members danced to the songs of the singers while zig-zagging clockwise around the singers.
The culture center’s Long Walk sculpture which features a man carrying his wife in a traditional basket provided the appropriate backdrop for the gathering that morning. This statue rendered by Nez Pierce Doug Hyde, a famous American Indian artist, resides in nearby Mayor. The Nation’s Preservation and Technology department under the direction of Judie Piner, manager, helped raise the necessary funds to complete the Hyde sculpture.
At the culture center that Saturday morning, Chairwoman Jane Russell-Winiecki greeted the gathering and spoke briefly about the significance of the day. David Kwail, council member also shared with the community and talked about the history of the people, especially the Yavapai people.
After the brief gathering at the culture center, the singers and returned to the gathering site below the casino at the Veteran’s Park where the day’s activity continued.
Various activities commenced that Saturday starting with a community luncheon that was prepared by Monica Marquez and Debbie Marguez along with Becky Jackson and Danielle Kinsey. Monica Marquez and her family had taken on the care of the meat 2 weeks before the event with a donated cow from the Nation.
Members of the U.N.I.T.Y. youth group under the direction of Maureen Romero served the well-prepared luncheon to the visitors and elders of the Nation.
Emcee Nancy Ruiz, Nation member, made sure all of the visiting dignitaries were acknowledged and the entertainers were kept on schedule during the afternoon.
From Hopiland Hopi Mission School, a group of traditional Hopi dancers under the direction of Mary Lou Honwytewa (YAN member) performed and from Payson, 10 year old Kellan Campbell- Tonto Apache from Payson , son of Clyde and Christina Campbell did an Apache warrior spear dance as Apache singers Delmundo Cepress of Camp Verde and Harold Kenton of San Carlos sang traditional Apache songs for him.
Mr. Kenton told the audience that it was important to teach children the proper way of culture and the songs that are sung.
Chairwoman Jane Russell-Winiecki and Vice Chairman Larry Jackson, Sr. attended the festivities as well and greeted the community at the beginning of the performances in the afternoon.
Special visitors included Chairwoman Bernadine Burnette of the Ft.McDowell community who spoke briefly.
Other traditional performers came from CBQ community and traditional Apache Mountain Spirit Dancers from Whiteriver under the direction of spiritual leader Manuel Cooley who had met with community members in Boynton Canyon earlier that morning for special services.
Yavapai-Apache Nation royalty also had the opportunity to meet the public for their first appearance as representatives of the Nation (see list of new royalty in this issue).
Margie Campos, public relations community event coordinator and assistant for the Nation, planned all of the Exodus activities. Gift baskets were carefully assembled and handed out to the special visitors and group leaders of the performers that afternoon. These gifts included fruit baskets and for the general public, a sporting event umbrella emblazed with the Nation’s logo and T-shirts imprinted with the words, “We Are One” translated into Yavapai and Apache with the Nation’s logo as well.
This annual event was started by the late Ted Smith, Sr. family in the early 90s and has continued to be a crucial part of the historical development of how the Nation continues to honor the Yavapai-Apache Nation.