Tribal lands and cultures in Fountain Hills
Those who hike the trails around Fountain Hills, or even just sit serenely on a local park bench, often talk about the reverent feelings they experience while they do. And although we can credit some of the euphoria to majestic scenery and breathtaking sunsets, we’d like to suggest some of it comes from the land’s former occupants, two Native American tribes whose ancestors called the Sonoran Desert home. Today we honor and respect their history, much of which is celebrated in local museums and festivals where visitors are welcome.
Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation
Approximately 600 members of the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation live in a 40-square mile reservation which borders Fountain Hills on the east. Another 300 members live off reservation. These once nomadic Yavapai people were hunter/gatherers, who roamed Arizona’s desert lowlands and Mogollon Rim country.
In the early 1970s, members are best known for preventing the construction of the Orme Dam at the confluence of the Verde and Salt rivers. The dam would have flooded the reservation, forced the community from the remainder of its ancestral homeland, and dramatically changed the landscape of what we now know as Fountain Hills.
During the 1990s, community members were also credited for persuading the Arizona Governor to sign gaming contracts with tribal casinos by creating a blockade of FBI-seized gaming machines on the Fort McDowell casino. Visitors to the beautiful We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort can be thankful that the three-week standoff between the tribe and state government was resolved, paving the way for Indian gaming in Arizona.
Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community
To the south of Fountain Hills is the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indiana Community which is comprised of the Onk Akimel O’odham (Pima) and the Xalychidom Piipaash (Maricopa). As farmers occupying vast stretches of land along the Gila and Salt Rivers, these native ancestors developed the most advanced canal system in North America.
Today, the Community is located in Maricopa County and bounded by the cities of Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa, and Fountain Hills. It is home to more than 10,000 enrolled members and encompasses 52,600 acres, 19,000 of which are held as a natural preserve. A nine-member legislative body governs the Community’s enterprises, which include industries in the Talking Stick Entertainment District such as Talking Stick Resort, TopGolf, OdySea Aquarium, Medieval Times, and Salt River Fields.