Fort McDowell Indian Reservation is centrally
located within Maricopa County, about 23 miles northeast of
the Phoenix metropolitan area. At an elevation of 1,350 feet, the
topography ranges from tree-lined river bottom to cactus-studded
rolling desert. Created by Executive Order on September 15, 1903,
the 24,680-acre reservation is home to the Yavapai, Mohave-Apache
and Apache Indians. The reservation is only a small parcel of
land, which was once, considered ancestral territory of these nomadic
bands of people who hunted and gathered food in Central Arizona
and the Mogollon Rim country.
Fort McDowell was named after General Irwin McDowell. The reservation
post was one of the most important outposts in the southwest
during the Apache Wars between 1865 and 1891.
The Fort McDowell Indian community was the home of one of the
first known advocates of human rights, Dr. Carlos Montezuma
Whssaja. As a child, he was stolen by Pima Indians and sold to an
Italian photographer who took him to Chicago and provided for him
an education in medicine. Later in his life, he fought for Native
American rights and other issues. At the same time, he became a
leading force to regain the Yavapai-Apache homeland. Soon there-after,
he died on the Fort McDowell Mohave-Apache Indian
Reservation, in a traditional Wickiup, from tuberculosis.
The community’s economy is closely tied to the surrounding communities
of Rio Verde, Fountain Hills, Mesa, Scottsdale and Phoenix.
Large employers include a tribally operated gasoline station, Fort
McDowell Yavapai Farm and Verde River Recreational Park area
development. The economy is also supplemented by grants from the
Two of the major economic development programs initiated by the
tribe are the Fort McDowell Gaming Center and Fort McDowell
Sand and Gravel. Other sources of revenue are businesses which
lease land from the tribe including Fountain Hills L.P. Gas, Fountain
Hills Concrete, Inc., City of Phoenix, Arizona Department of
Transportation, Cowboy Adventure Trail Horseback Riding, and Out
of Africa Wildlife Park.
The swift-moving current of the Verde River, which spans the entire
length of the reservation, provides a cool change from the hot summer
for city dwellers who come to float downriver on inner tubes.
The tall cottonwoods along the riverbanks provide picnic areas, and
fishing holes. The reservation is also an excellent hunting area.
Further outdoor activities are available at the nearby Tonto and
Coconino National Forests that include towering saguaros and pine-covered
mountains with numerous lakes. The community celebrates
Orme Dam Recognition Day in November, and Sovereignty Day each
May. The nearby Phoenix metropolitan area offers a variety of activities,
ranging from professional sports to major cultural events.