Mike Harrison (left) and John Williams © 1975 Melissa Jones

The Yavapai reclaim their history with this groundbreaking text. 

Oral History of the Yavapai offers a wide range of information on the Yavapai people from creation beliefs to interpretations of historical events and people.

In the 1970s, the Fort McDowell Reservation in Arizona came under threat by a dam construction project that, if approved, would potentially flood most of its 24,680 acres of land. As part of the effort to preserve the reservation, Mike Harrison and John Williams, two elders of the Yavapai tribe, sought to have their history recorded as they themselves knew it, as it had been passed down to them from generation to generation, so that the history of their people would not be lost to future generations. In March 1974, Arizona State University anthropologist Sigrid Khera first sat down with Harrison and Williams to begin recording and transcribing their oral history, a project that would continue through the summer of 1976 and beyond.

Although Harrison and Williams have since passed away, their voices shine through the pages of this book and the history of their people remains to be passed along and shared.  Thanks to the efforts of Scottsdale, AZ resident and Orme Dam activist Carolina Butler, this important document is being made available to the public for the first time.

Oral History of the Yavapai offers a wide range of information regarding the Yavapai people, from creation beliefs to interpretations of historical events and people. Harrison and Williams not only relate their perspective on the relationship between the “White people” and the Native American peoples of the Southwest, but they also share stories about prayers, songs, dreams, sacred places, and belief systems of the Yavapai.

About the Authors

Shortly after arriving at Arizona State University, a letter dropped into Dr. Sigrid Khera's hands that a Yavapai elder wanted his tribe’s history written as they themselves knew it. In March 1974 Sigrid started working with Mike Harrison and John Williams, two Yavapai elders from the Fort McDowell reservation in Arizona. When Sigrid Khera died in 1984, she left behind a nearly completed manuscript, Oral History of the Yavapai. 



Browse select maps and photos from Oral History of the Yavapai, as well as additional images from throughout the ancestral Yavapai territory. Yavapai names provided.

"This book belongs in every American History classroom."

Featured On

Arizona Horizon, PBS (KAET Ch 8)