ETHNONYMS: Apaches-Mohaves, Cruzados, Mohave-Apache

The Yavapai are a Yuman-speaking American Indian group who in the late seventeenth century numbered about 1,200 and ranged over an extensive territory in present-day central and west-central Arizona. Though in contact with the Spanish as early as the late sixteenth century, Yavapai relations with Whites were limited until gold was discovered in Yavapai territory in the 1860s. By the early 1900s, after some resistance and bloodshed, the U.S. government succeeded in settling the Yavapai onto reservations. In 1978 Yavapai located on the reservations in central Arizona numbered 883.

Except for some western bands along the lower Colorado River who practiced limited horticulture, the Yavapai were nomadic hunters and gatherers. Their staple food source was the agave plant, used to make mescal, and their most Important animal resources, deer and rabbits, were taken in communal hunts involving men and women. Yavapai society was divided into three subtribes, each of which was further subDivided into local bands. Tribal and subtribal chiefs were lacking, and bands were headed by influential leaders who had distinguished themselves in warfare.

A central feature of Yavapai religion was prayer, particularly for good health. Shamans who provided religious Leadership were believed to be knowledgeable in the supernatural forces that influenced people's lives, and thus they were considered effective healers. Of the supernatural forces appealed to in prayers, the most important were Old Lady White Stone, who is believed to have planted all of the healing plants recognized by the Yavapai, and Lofty Wanderer, who is believed to have put the present world into order. Supernatural aid also came from the qaqaqe, "little people," who are recognized by some Yavapai as being like the kachinas of the Hopi.


Coffeen, William R. (1972). "The Effects of the Central Arizona Project on the Fort McDowell Indian Community." Ethnohistory 19:345-377.

Gifford, Edward W. (1932). "The Southeastern Yavapai." University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 29:177-252.

Khera, Sigrid, and Patricia S. Mariella (1983). "Yavapai." In Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 9, Southwest, edited by Alfonso Ortiz, 38-54. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.

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