|Written by Mark Lineberger|
|Friday, 24 February 2012 00:00|
This weekend, the Yavapai-Apache Nation is hosting one of its biggest days of the year.
For the 25th year straight, members of the Nation will take the memory of a tragic injustice and turn it into a celebration for the Exodus Day Commemoration event, Saturday, Feb. 25, at Veterans’ Memorial Park just below Cliff Castle Casino.
The daylong event marks the 1875 anniversary of the U.S. Army rounding up the Yavapai and Apache people, or the Wipuhk’a’bah and Dil’zhe’e in the tribes’ native languages, and forcing them to march three days and 180 miles over rough terrain to the military reservation in San Carlos.
Hundreds of lives were lost along the way, either to illness or the elements. It would be a quarter-century before any were allowed to return to their homeland in the Verde Valley.
Unfortunately for the Yavapai and Apache, who had called the area home for countless years, 25 years was enough time for the newest inhabitants to completely transform the Verde Valley.
Those who returned had to learn to quickly adjust to life in this new world.
They persevered, and eventually both tribes joined forces to form the Yavapai-Apache Nation. A century later, the Nation has regained some land of its own and operates Cliff Castle Casino, a major employer in the region and an economic engine for the tribal economy.
The Exodus commemoration is the nation’s way of never forgetting those darkest times and to reflect on the successful return of the Yavapai and Apache to their homeland.
The day begins at 6 a.m. with people participating in a Spirit Run starting from the junction of State Routes 87 and 260.
At sunrise, some will gather in Boynton Canyon, a sacred site, for a traditional blessing ceremony.
Vendors, artists and concessions will set up in the park at 8 a.m.
At 10 a.m., many will participate in a commemorative march down Montezuma Castle Highway. While not 180 miles, the walk is meant to represent that long forced march carried out 137 years ago.
Montezuma Castle Highway will be shut down from 10 a.m. to noon between I-17 and Arena Del Loma for the walk, but it may reopen sooner depending on how long the walk takes, according to Fran Chavez, public relations director for the Yavapai-Apache Nation.
Traffic will detour down Arena Del Loma to Middle Verde Road.
A free lunch, open to the public, will be served at noon, followed by a 1 p.m. ceremony including speakers, musicians, dancers and other entertainment.
The evening wraps up at 9 p.m. with the Roger Wathogoma Band preforming in the casino’s Dragonfly Lounge.
For more information, contact the Yavapai-Apache Nation at 567-1006 or 567-1071.
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