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Yavapai Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Yavapai Indian tribe for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our Yavapai language and culture pages for in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Yavapai pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.

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   Yavapai Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Yavapai"? What does it mean?
Yavapai is pronounced "yah-vah-pie." It means "people of the sun" in the Yavapai language.

Where do the Yavapais live?
The Yavapai are natives of western Arizona, where they still live today.

How is the Yavapai Indian nation organized?
The Yavapais live on three separate reservations. An Indian reservation is land that belongs to a tribe and is under their control. Two of these reservations (the Yavapai Prescott Indian Tribe and the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation) are only home to the Yavapai Indians, but the third one, known as the Yavapai-Apache Nation, is jointly owned by the Yavapais and their tribal allies the Apaches. Each of these three reservations has its own government, laws, police, and services, just like a small country. However, the Yavapais are also US citizens and must obey American law.

In the past, each Yavapai band had its own chief or headman. Yavapai chiefs were looked to for leadership, but actual political decisions were made by a tribal council, and every member had to agree before the tribe could act (this is called consensus.) Most of the chief's job was mediating between other tribal members. Today, the Yavapai tribes are led by tribal councils elected by the citizens, and these council members still work by consensus much of the time.

What language do the Yavapai Indians speak?
Almost all Yavapai people speak English today, but some of them also speak their native Yavapai language. Yavapai is a complex language with many long words. If you'd like to know a Yavapai word that's not too hard to say, "m'hahm'ijah" (sounds like muh-hahm-ee-jah) is a friendly greeting in Yavapai.

What was Yavapai culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here is the homepage of the Yavapai-Apache Nation. On their site you can find information about the Yavapai people in the past and today.

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How do Yavapai Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things all children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Yavapai children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play in their daily lives, just like colonial children. But they did have dolls, toys, and games to play. Yavapai people were known as good runners, and Yavapai kids liked to compete at footraces. A Yavapai mother traditionally carried a young child in a basket cradleboard on her back. Here is a website with pictures and information about cradle boards.

What were men and women's roles in the Yavapai tribe?
Yavapai women did most of the cooking and child care, and gathered plants and herbs. Men did most of the hunting and sometimes went to war to protect their families. Both genders took part in storytelling, music and artwork, and traditional medicine.

What were Yavapai homes like in the past?
Most Yavapai Indians lived in wickiups. Wickiups are small round or cone-shaped houses made of a willow frame covered with brush and dirt. This was a good house style for a tribe that moved around a lot like the Yavapai, because it was easy for a family to build a new brush house whenever they migrated to a new location. Here is a website with pictures of a Yavapai brush lodge.

Yavapai people do not live in these old-fashioned dwellings today, any more than other Americans live in log cabins. Yavapai families live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What were Yavapai clothes like? Did the Yavapais wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Most Yavapai people wore clothes made from buckskin. Men wore Indian breechclouts and leggings, and women wore skirts and tunic-like shirts. After Europeans arrived, the Yavapais began to adapt some Mexican fashions such as cotton blouses and colorful blanket shawls. Some Yavapai people wore Native moccasins, but others wore sandals made of yucca fiber. Here are some photos and links about Indian clothing in general.

Originally the Yavapais did not wear any form of Indian head dress. Yavapai men usually wore cloth headbands tied around their foreheads instead. As intertribal culture became stronger, some of these headdress styles began to be adopted by Southwest Indian tribes, and today you can sometimes see them at festivals. Yavapai men and women both wore their hair long, and women also wore long bangs. The Yavapais wore traditional tribal tattoos and also painted their faces and bodies for special occasions. Some Yavapai women also painted horizontal white or yellow stripes on their hair. Southwestern Native American jewelry such as silver earrings, beadwork necklaces, and concho belts were very popular among Yavapai people, and still are worn today.

Today, Yavapai people wear modern clothes like jeans instead of loincloths... and they only wear traditional regalia for special occasions like a dance.

What was Yavapai transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
No--the Yavapai Indians weren't coastal people, and rarely traveled by river. Most often they just walked. There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe. Once Europeans brought horses to America, the Yavapais could travel more quickly than before.

What was Yavapai food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Yavapais were hunter-gatherers. That means they moved around frequently to find food for their families. Men hunted deer, rabbits, turkeys, and small game, while women gathered nuts, fruits, and herbs. Some Yavapai bands planted crops of corn and beans as well. Even Yavapai bands that did no farming still ate corn and beans, because they acquired them in trade from neighboring agricultural tribes. Favorite Yavapai recipes included cornbread and acorn stew. Here is a website with more information about traditional Native American food.

What were Yavapai weapons and tools like in the past?
Yavapai hunters used bows and arrows, throwing sticks, and snares. In war, Yavapai men fired their bows or fought with clubs or spears. Some Yavapai warriors used leather shields to protect themselves from enemy archers. Here is a website with pictures of Indian weapons.

What other Native Americans did the Yavapai tribe interact with?
The Yavapais traded regularly with other tribes of the Southwest. They especially liked to trade deerskins and furs for corn. The Yavapais were close allies of the Apache tribe and the and Mojave tribe. They also fought wars with some of their neighbors, such as the Havasupai and O'odham tribes.

What are Yavapai arts and crafts like?
Yavapai artists are famous for their Southwest pottery and coiled baskets. Here is a museum website with pictures of Yavapai and other Southwestern Indian baskets.

What kinds of stories do the Yavapais tell?
There are lots of traditional Yavapai legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Yavapai Indian culture. Here is a Yavapai story about a great flood. Here's a website where you can read more about Yavapai stories.

What about Yavapai religion?
Spirituality and religion were important parts of Yavapai life, and some people continue to practice traditional beliefs today. It is respectful to avoid imitating religious rituals for school projects since some Yavapai people care about them deeply. You can read and learn about them, however. You can visit this site to learn more about Yavapai religion or this site about Native American spirituality in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
You may enjoy And It Is Still That Way, a book of legends from various Arizona Indian tribes including the Yavapai tribe. This illustrated book, A Boy Named Beckoning, tells the story of a Yavapai child overcoming adversity in the 1800's. For older kids, a good source of information about Yavapai culture and history is Oral History of the Yavapai. You can also browse through our recommendations of Indian novels. Disclaimer: we are an Amazon affiliate and our website earns a commission if you buy a book through one of these links. Most of them can also be found in a public library, though!

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2020.

Thanks for your interest in the Yavapai Indian people and their language!

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Learn More About The Yavapais

Yavapai Indian Tribe
An overview of the Yavapai people, their language and history.

Yavapai Language Resources
Yavapai language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Yavapai Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Yavapai tribe past and present.

Yavapai Indian Words
Yavapai Indian vocabulary lists.

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