Mike Harrison © Sigrid Khera

Mike Harrison © Sigrid Khera

Mike Harrison (1886 – 1983)

(from Oral History of the Yavapai, as written by the anthropologist Dr. Sigrid Khera)

There was a brush shade with a dusty table, rickety chairs, a rusty iron bedstead and two hungry dogs who jumped all over us.  A tall, thin old man in a T-shirt and with thick eyeglasses disappeared into a little shack next to the brush shade

After a little while he came out again, but dressed with shirt and tie, and a straw hat on his head.  This was Mike Harrison, then 88, the oldest man of the Fort McDowell reservation.  He shook hands with Carolina and me, and Carolina joked a little with him in Spanish.  Mike spoke some Spanish and he seemed quite proud of it.

It was Mike who had decided that the non-Indian world should know who his people were and had asked to have their Yavapai history recorded.


 John Williams © Sigrid Khera

John Williams © Sigrid Khera

John Williams (1904 – 1983)

(from Oral History of the Yavapai, as written by the anthropologist Dr. Sigrid Khera) 

Unlike Mike Harrison, John was of husky build.  He wore a broad-rimmed cowboy hat and he had the gait of a man who had spent more time in the saddle than on the ground.

His knowledge of the past gave John Williams, who had never gone to school and who could not speak "standard" English, extraordinary strength and confidence.

One of his close cousins later said about John, "When he was young, all of the old people told him things all the time.  It looked as if they wanted him to carry on what they themselves had seen and knew so that it would not get lost  They had picked him out to pass the knowledge on to the next generations."


 Dr. Sigrid Khera © Arizona Republic / Charles Krejcsi 1981

Dr. Sigrid Khera
© Arizona Republic / Charles Krejcsi 1981

Sigrid Khera, PhD (1934 – 1984)

Sigrid Khera was born in Vienna, Austria.  She received her PhD in anthropology from the University of Vienna in 1958 and always dreamed of working with American Indians in the Southwest.

After coming to the U.S. she got a position as Assistant Professor in the Anthropology Department at Arizona State University in Tempe.  Newly arrived at ASU, a letter dropped into her hands that a Yavapai elder wanted his tribe's history written as the Yavapai themselves knew it.

In March 1974 Sigrid Khera started working with Mike Harrison and John Williams, two Yavapai elders from the Fort McDowell reservation located about an hour drive from downtown Phoenix, the state's capital.

When Sigrid Khera died in 1984, the Yavapai requested that her remains be buried at their cemetery.  We are unaware of any other anthropologist who has been so honored.


 Mike Harrison and Carolina Butler © virginia mott, November 1973

Mike Harrison and Carolina Butler
© virginia mott, November 1973

Carolina Castillo Butler
A multi-generational Arizona Family since 1864

“I met the Yavapai people by chance in 1971. For the 40 years since, the Yavapai at Fort McDowell, Camp Verde, and Prescott Reservations have been my friends, and I theirs.

“Yavapai tribal elders Mike Harrison and John Williams, helped by anthropologist Dr. Sigrid Khera, wanted to set the record straight. They didn’t want the Yavapai to lose their rightful place in history. Their tribal history is preserved here in this book, in their own words. These two tribal elders from one of Arizona’s oldest tribes, the Yavapai, more than achieved their goal.

“When I met Dr. Khera in 1974 I was already helping the Fort McDowell Yavapai save their land, which the government wanted for the Orme Dam.”