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Quechan dancers from the Ah-kell Dance Group perform the dance of Thanksgiving.

Celebrating 30 Years of the Dam Which Never Was

By Michelle Washington
Au-Authm Action News

In the late 1960’s as the Phoenix metropolitan area grew, the U.S. government proposed to build a dam that would give Phoenix more water—but it would also flood 17,000 acres of the Fort McDowell Yavapai Indian Reservation. According to the Yavapai Nation, when Congress approved the Central Arizona Project, the plan called for the construction of Orme Dam at the juncture of the Verde and Salt rivers. Through the help of nearby communities, activists and supporters, the Yavapai Nation eventually stopped the dam from being built.

November 18-20 marked the 30th Annual Orme Dam Victory Days in the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, with a series of events celebrated by the Yavapai people. The celebration included a golf tournament and junior golf tournament, a 5K run/walk, a rodeo, a basketball tournament, a softball tournament, a volleyball tournament, a parade, a frybread contest, a carnival, and the Yavapai Village.

The Yavapai Village is a social gathering to which many tribes are invited to share their social song and dance. Drew Lacapa, a comedian from the White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation, was the emcee, and he had spectators laughing at his jokes. The performance schedule began with the Red Mountain Bird Singers and Dancers from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

The Yaqui Traditional Singers and Dancers from Guadalupe, performed along with the Generations of Generations Bird Singers and Dancers, the Tohono Hia-Ced O’Odham Dancers, the Pima Basket Dancers and the Quechan Ah-kell Dance Group. Lacapa shared a story from his childhood and afterward he said, “Some people tell stories like this through words; some people tell stories through song and dance.” Then he announced the next performers Bird Singing and Dancing by the River, another dance group from Salt River. The Apache Crown Dancers attracted many spectators and dancers to their performance.

The last group to share their song and dance was Avi Kwa’ Ame, from Needles, California. After all the dance group performances came to an end, the sounds of the carnival rides, rodeo and pow wow drowned out the Yavapai Village.

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Celebrating 30 Years of the Dam Which Never Was