Each year, the Yavapai-Apache Nation celebrates a historical event that occurred 140 years ago when the Yavapai and the Apache were rounded up by the U.S. Cavalry and forced marched to old San Carlos on Feb. 27, 1875, a distance of 180 miles east of Camp Verde.
The story is told by tribal elders how the Yavapai and Apaches were lined up on each side of the Verde River and escorted by the troops out of Camp Verde toward the east onto the dirt trails that winded through present-day Fossil Creek.
There were several crossings of swirling rivers along the way and it was a cold winter day when the march began.
In 1863, gold was discovered on Lynx Creek in nearby Prescott and that event changed the ways of the Yavapai and Apache in Verde Valley.
Within two years of the gold discovery, the Yavapai and Apache were pursued by soldiers under the direction of then-President Grant who served as president from 1869 to 1877.
From 1863 to 1873, the Yavapai and Apache were subjected to brutal wars in the area.
President Andrew Jackson had just completed the removal of the Cherokees with the Trail of Tears march from North Carolina to Oklahoma territory prior to Grant taking office.
Historical military records stored at the Nation's culture center denotes physical encounters between the U.S. Calvary and the Yavapai and Apache.
The U.S Government wanted to subdue the tribes in Verde Valley.
Ironically, on Oct. 3, 1871, the Rio Verde Reserve was set aside through an Executive Order in Verde Valley under President Grant for the Yavapai and Apache and four years later, on April 23, 1875, the Rio Verde Reserve was withdrawn.
This land area had been demarcated as "10 miles on each side of the Verde River and 40 miles in length" converting to 900 square miles.
The western end of this reserve ended west of present -day Perkinsville about 28 miles north of Prescott.
During the three winters from 1871 to 1873, the young and the old died due to malnutrition and unhealthy rations on the Rio Verde Reserve.
On Feb. 27, 1875, the Yavapai and Apache were forced marched to San Carlos Reservation during winter and many of the marchers died along the way.
One traditional man carried his wife in a basket with holes cut into the basket for her legs.
This scene is depicted in a bronze sculptor by Indian artist Doug Hyde in front of the Nation's culture center today.
For 25 years, the Yavapai and Apache were interned at the military reserve in San Carlos and endured hunger, disease and social disorganization.
Many children were born there during this time.
This upheaval in the lives of the Yavapai and Apache affected every aspect of their lives: traditional identities and the old ways had become dormant in San Carlos.
Old photographs from San Carlos show long lines of Yavapai and Apaches lined up for rations distributed by the soldiers.
Summer temperatures reached above 100 degrees and there was much malcontent with the hot desert environment and general living conditions.
The geography was unlike the Verde Valley where water was abundant and the green vegetation on the banks of the Verde River and the nearby mountains featured plentiful deer and edible vegetation.
After 25 years of military incarceration, the Yavapai and Apache were allowed to leave San Carlos at the turn of the century for their homelands in the Verde Valley.
Upon returning to the Verde Valley, the Yavapai and Apache saw many Anglo settlers who had set up ranches and homesteads.
Once again, the Yavapai and Apache became vagabonds without a land base to call their home.
The Yavapai-Apache who squatted on certain pieces of land in Verde Valley were chased off by the newcomers.
Sometime in the early 1900s a small reservation was re-established through the tireless efforts by a Dr. Taylor Gabbard who petitioned the U.S. Government to designate a small piece of land as the new reservation for the Yavapai and Apache in Verde Valley.
The new lands set aside gave the Yavapai and Apache the confidence they needed to establish a community.
It was not until the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 when the Yavapai and Apache were federally recognized as an Indian tribe.
On Feb. 27, the Yavapai-Apache Nation's annual Exodus-Return Commemoration will include a full agenda of activities, which will begin with an early sunrise Prayer at Boynton Canyon at Enchantment Resort in Sedona at 6 a.m.
At 11 a.m., a commemorative march from below Cliff Castle Casino Hotel at the Veteran's Park to the Nation's culture center. on Middle Verde Road.
Activities will follow at the park.
(Don Decker is the editor of the Yavapai-Apache Nation's newspaper, Gah'nahvah/Ya Ti')