Walapai - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Prior to its disruptive encounter with the U.S. Cavalry in the 1860s, the Walapai tribe was divided into three named subtribes, each encompassing several adjoining patrilineal bands and their constituent camps. These social units tended to be endogamous, since marriage partners were most frequently selected from adjacent camps and bands. But strict territoriality does not appear to have been maintained: subtribes shared land and resources with other Walapais when necessary for survival. The reservation system has transformed this aboriginal social organization. The Havasupai reservation was established for a single band within one subtribe, and the Walapai reservation, drawing its designation from the proper name for another patrilineal band, now houses descendants of twelve other aboriginal bands.

Political Organization and Conflict. War with the United States, as well as the customary practice of governmental agents to seek "chiefs" as signatories to official documents, elevated several of the camp and band headmen to positions of subtribal leadership. Wauba Yuma, shortly before his murder, put his mark on the toll-road contract on behalf of the Yavapai Fighters subtribe, as did Hitchi Hitchi for the Plateau People. And Cherum, of the Middle Mountain People, took military command in the ensuing war, developing a clever trade network by which he procured arms from Southern Paiutes who had in turn obtained them from Mormons in Utah. With the creation of the reservation, bringing agents of the Indian Service to Truxton Canyon, the incipient tribal leadership fell dormant. The present tribal government, an elective nine-member council, was established under provisions of the Indian Reorganization Act in the late 1930s.

Social Control. Aboriginally, the wisdom and oratorical skills of the camp and band leaders were marshaled in family disputes. Undoubtedly, too, the fluidity of group membership facilitated resolution, as disputants could join the camps of friends and relatives.


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