Fort McDowell to celebrate 15th Annual Sovereignty Day

Fort McDowell community members begin the four-mile march from Parks and Recreation to the Fort McDowell Casino during the 2006 Sovereignty Day Commemoration held May 12, 2006. The march re-enacts the three-day march to the Arizona State Capitol protesting the seizure of the tribe’s slot machines in May 1992 (Courtesy photo).

Fort McDowell community members begin the four-mile march from Parks and Recreation to the Fort McDowell Casino during the 2006 Sovereignty Day Commemoration held May 12, 2006. The march re-enacts the three-day march to the Arizona State Capitol protesting the seizure of the tribe’s slot machines in May 1992 (Courtesy photo).

FORT MCDOWELL-Join Spike the Super Ball, official team captain of the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee as he helps the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation celebrate the 15th Annual Sovereignty Day on May 18.

Sovereignty Day commemorates a historic three-week standoff with the federal government over the tribe's gaming operations. The event, which features a four-mile walk from the Fort McDowell Recreation Center to the casino, a hearty lunch, and a presentation on why the nation celebrates Sovereignty Day is free and open to the public.

After the state of Arizona's repeated refusals to negotiate a gaming compact with Arizona tribes, U.S. Attorney Linda Akers ordered raids on tribal casinos in 1992. During the early morning hours of May 12, trucks accompanied by armed FBI agents swept into Fort McDowell Casino. The tribe's slot machines were taken and loaded into the trucks to be confiscated.

However, the FBI and the state failed to reckon with the determination of the Yavapai people. Cars, pickups, two 20-foot-high dump trucks from Fort McDowell Yavapai Materials and people, including women and small children converged on the site, blocking the only way out for the trucks and the armed agents. The effort to stop the FBI from carting off the tribe's principal source of income was underway.

After three weeks, the Arizona governor gave in and signed compacts with Fort McDowell and other Arizona tribes. Fort McDowell had scored a historic victory for self-governance and local control.

Since the compacts went into effect, the Fort McDowell Yavapai have enjoyed economic and social prosperity. In addition to the casino and Fort McDowell Yavapai Materials, the tribe owns and operates the WeKoPa golf course, featuring the award-winning Cholla and Saguaro courses; Eagle View RV park, a state-of the-art 150-space RV resort; the Radisson Fort McDowell and Poco Diablo resorts; Fort McDowell Adventures, an outdoor Western venue; the Fort McDowell Farm; and other enterprises.

"We've done a lot out here," said Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation President Raphael Bear.

For more information on Sovereignty Day or other Fort McDowell events, call the Fort McDowell Events Department at 480-816-7162.

About Fort McDowell: The Fort McDowell Yavapai, the "People of the Four Peaks" are one of three Yavapai tribes in Arizona. The nation, which has lived and prospered in Central Arizona for thousands of years, was granted a 24,000-acre reservation 35 miles northeast of Phoenix in 1903. Over the ensuing years, Fort McDowell has opened and/or expanded tribal enterprises such as Fort McDowell Yavapai Materials, a multi-million dollar supplier of the finest sand and gravel products to the Valley; Fort McDowell Adventures, the nation's outdoor Western entertainment venue in the area's most pristine location; Fort McDowell Farms, which produces alfalfa, citrus and pecans for sale; the Radisson Poco Diablo Resort in Sedona; Ba'ja Gas and Convenience Store; Eagle View (Aseh Gweh Oou-o) RV Resort; WeKoPa Golf Club, one of Arizona's finest public championship courses; and of course, Fort McDowell Casino, the state's first and best gaming facility. The nation's newest enterprise, the AAA-four diamond rated Radisson Fort McDowell Resort and Convention Center, opened in December 2005, and WeKoPa's second 18-hole course, the Saguaro opened in December 2006.

15th Annual Sovereignty Day Celebration Schedule:

- 6:30 a.m. Continental Breakfast

- 7 a.m. March/Walk begins at Parks & Recreation to Casino Bingo Hall

- 9:30 a.m. Program begins/FM Casino Bingo Hall

- 11 a.m. Lunch & Entertainment/FM Casino Bingo Hall

• Special appearance by Spike the Super Ball, Superbowl XLII mascot.

• Kids' Fun Outside Play Area.

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