Project aims to preserve the cultural history of an Arizona tribe
MOHAVE VALLEY, Arizona (AP) – Hidden in the Christmas Tree Pass near the Arizona-Nevada border, over 700 petroglyphs can be found in Grapevine Canyon.
The petroglyphs, which were carved from the rocks of the canyon between 1100 and 1900 AD, are a reminder that the history of the Colorado River stretches long before the Davis Dam left its mark on the landscape.
The Pipa Aha Macav, or “The People By the River,” once occupied lands stretching from Utah to Mexico, and east to west from present-day Santa Barbara to Prescott.
Now known as the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe, the group’s land was reduced by settlers and now extends from Mojave City to Topock, and straddles the borders of Nevada, California, and Arizona.
Fort Mojave was established as a United States military outpost in 1859 to provide safe passage for American immigrants.
The ruins of Fort Mojave still exist on a bluff overlooking the Colorado River, just south of the current town limit of Bullhead.
The reserve follows the Colorado River, as the Fort Mojave tribe holds the river sacred for its traditions.
“The whole world formed here, according to our creation story,” said Nora McDowell, former president of the Fort Mohave Indian tribe.
McDowell is the manager of the Topock Remediation Project, which cleans up chrome contamination in groundwater near Topock Maze.
The Topock Maze is a geoglyph over 600 years old that is spiritually important to the Mojave as it is a place where spirits move on to their next life.
Avi Kwa Ame and Avi Vas Qui (Boundary Cone) are also sacred to the Mojave.
According to tribal tradition, the world was created just below the Hoover Dam at Avi Kwa Ame, the highest point of the Newberry Mountains.
Today the summit is known as Spirit Mountain.
Many residents of Bullhead City and Mohave Valley likely see the words “Avi” and “Spirit Mountain” every day without realizing their meaning, as two tribal casinos in the area share the names.
The tribe is working to create the Avi Kwa Ame National Monument, which will protect 380,000 acres of public land in southern Nevada if the proposal is accepted.
Nine other tribes – Hualapai, Yavapai, Havasupai, Quechan, Maricopa, Pai Pai, Halchidhoma, Cocopah and Kumeyaay – also hold the sacred area.
“This is our home, and there are a lot of cultural resources that we have to take care of, even though we no longer own the land,” McDowell said.
On October 11, President Joe Biden officially recognized Indigenous Peoples Day to celebrate and honor Native American peoples. It is celebrated on the second Monday in October, falling on the same calendar day as Columbus Day.