The Lower Colorado River Basin has a rich and colorful history. The Aha Macav (now Federally designated as the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe) have managed the natural resources of their of their desert homeland for perhaps as long as 8,000 years. There is evidence to suggest that the ancestors of today’s Mojave people migrated into the mountains and valleys along the Colorado River soon after the last ice age.
The Mojave’s were prosperous farmers and had already established village and trade routes when the Spaniards encountered them in the 1700s. The first white men to visit the area were these Spanish explorers who heard the name as “mo-HA-vey” and spelled it Mojave. On hearing the Spanish pronunciation, English speakers spelled it Mohave; thus the two spellings in use today.
One hundred years later, the Mojave’s resisted the stream of migrants drawn west by the California gold rush. The resulting conflicts led to the establishment of Fort Mojave in 1859 on a bluff overlooking the place where the Mojave Road crossed the Colorado River.
After several years, the government built an Indian school on the site of Fort Mojave which had been abandoned in 1861. The Fort was reopened two years later with the advent of the Civil War and was closed permanently in 1890. Annual attendance at this boarding school for Native American children was over 300 students from various tribes in Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada. Life was harsh at this military-style school. For instance, students were punished for speaking their native language. The school closed in 1930. There is not much left on the site, but there are still vivid memories in the minds of several tribal elders who had been students at the school.
In the early days, the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe decided to use music in a gesture to bridge the gap between the cultures. They formed a band that was an immediate success. The band toured the region giving concerts. They performed at the dedication of Boulder Dam and many other significant events. The band is still a major function of the tribe today.
What has replaced the old fort and Indian school is the thriving communities of Fort Mojave and Mohave Valley.
Today, the Tribe is celebrating the many positive changes that have resulted from careful planning, sound investment and hard work. The Tribe’s agricultural operations are highly profitable and expanding. A tribally owned telecommunications company provides service to customers throughout the Mohave Valley. The Tribe’s convenience store is the highest grossing in Arizona.
The Tribe’s Avi Resort and Casino hotel has 302 rooms, a five-acre beach and lagoon on the Colorado River, an 18-hole championship golf course and an RV park. New houses, designed to capture the beautiful mountain views of the reservation’s desert setting, surround the golf course.
The Spirit Mountain Casino is a favorite gathering place for local people and the Tribe also owns a franchise JB’s Restaurant. Smith’s Food and Drugs is the anchor tenant in a new tribal shopping center. A 500-megawatt, gas-fired, electric generating plant has become a new landmark on land leased from the Tribe in southeast Mohave Valley.
The Tribe’s electric utility company provides service to the expanding number of tribal enterprises. New roads and the newly constructed Veterans Memorial Bridge across the Colorado River benefit the Tribe’s neighbors while opening the Tribe’s Nevada lands to development. The new river crossing shortens travel distances and saves precious minutes for emergency response vehicles for all residents of southern Mohave Valley.
The Tribe is the largest employer in southern Mohave Valley. Tribal enterprises have made possible full employment for all tribal members who wish to work and have opened new employment opportunities for people from neighboring communities.
Income from tribal enterprises provides educational scholarships, cultural heritage preservation and new recreational and health care facilities for tribal members.
Today’s Mojave people look forward to expanding cultural and economic opportunities as a result of their diverse and prosperous economy. The Fort Mojave Indian Tribe is obviously an integral part of our community.
For further information on the Fort Mohave Indians click here www.mojaveindiantribe.com