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Visiting the Gila River Indian Community for the Five Tribes Treaty of Peace Celebration
Like most non-Indian people in Phoenix, the only thing I know about the Pima Indian Communities around Phoenix is that there are casinos there.
Actually, the only Indian Casino that I've been inside of was the Talking Stick, which is over by Scottsdale. And just south of where I live, in Glendale, is the Vee Quiva (gotta do some research on that!) which is in Komate, which is part of Laveen, Arizona, on the Pima Gila River Indian Community (Reservation).
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This past weekend I went there. No, not the casino, the Gila River Indian Community. My interest in Phoenix history had led me to find out more about the Five Tribes Treaty of Peace Celebration. And since I'm not interested in "back in the way" or "the old west", but instead the continuous story of Phoenix, the fact that it was the 153rd Annual celebration (yes, the one hundred and fiftieth) was very meaningful to me. That is, this treaty has been celebrated since its signing in 1863, at a place that has belonged to the Pima people for hundreds of years, and has been an officially-recognized Reservation since 1859.
To go there, all you have to do is to cross the Salt River. There are bridges on 51st Avenue, 67th and 91st.
Time-travel with me. It's the 1860s and the only reason that non-Indian people are traveling back and forth across the Salt River is to get to the gold mines. That is, up towards Wickenburg. And the route takes them through the Pima Villages around Maricopa via the Gila River from Yuma. Yuma was the entrance point for Arizona, as ships sailed from San Francisco up through Baja California. Seems like a strange route nowadays, but crossing the desert wasn't really a good idea, and gold was heavy stuff that needed to get back to civilization, which at the time was San Francisco, California.
But there's a pretty serious problem when anyone crosses north over the Salt River Valley. Apaches. They didn't really live there, no one did (and hadn't since the Hohokams disappeared), but they guarded it. And anyone foolhardy enough to make the trip along the White Tank Mountains to the gold fields and back is taking a terrible risk. Yes, a lot of people died for that gold. If you're wondering where the oldest cemetery in the Salt River Valley is, just trace that route.
But gold is a pretty powerful incentive. And when the United States Military got involved, they looked for allies, which were the five tribes, the Pima (Akimel O’odham), Maricopa (Pee Posh), Yuma, Hualapai, and the Chemehuevi people.
So this past Saturday I just wanted to stand there and think about that. I looked at the mountains in the distance, I looked into the eyes of descendants of people who had been there. I was very obviously the only non-Indian person there at the celebration, but I knew that my people were part of the alliance, too. I am enjoying learning about this, and it makes living here much more meaningful to me.
Thank you for walking with me.
By the way, the Five Tribes Treaty of Peace Celebration is held every April (sometimes early May) in the Gila River Indian Community. This year it was at the District 7 Service Center and Park, which is on 83rd Avenue just south of Baseline.
Posted by Brad Hall