The excitement at Fort McDowell Casino includes our Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation which is located within Maricopa County just north of Mesa, east of Scottsdale and only 24 miles from Phoenix. We’re near the confluence of the east-west flowing Salt River and the north-south Verde River which flows gently through our reservation. The majestic Four Peaks rise to 7,000 ft. above the desert floor some 30 miles to the east, gracing the reservation with a magnificent sight year round.
The community was created by Executive Order September 15, 1903. The 40-square mile reservation is home to 600 community members and another 300 members live off reservation. This land was once part of the ancestral home of the nomadic Yavapai people, hunters and gatherers in the vast surrounding area of desert lowlands and the mountainous Mogollon Rim.
In recent years, Fort McDowell won two historic victories reaffirming its tribal sovereignty. In the early 1970's, construction of the Orme Dam was proposed at the nearby confluence of the Verde and Salt Rivers, which would have flooded the reservation and forced the community from what little remained of its ancestral homeland. With limited financial resources, individuals from the community spearheaded an opposition movement, rallied the support of fellow tribal members, and brought in other Indian tribes and non-Indian groups also opposing the dam.
In a 1976 referendum, the community voted 144 to 57 against selling their land to the federal government for the dam site. On November 12, 1981, after consulting with the Fort McDowell Tribal Council and the Governor's Advisory Committee, Interior Secretary James Watt announced that Orme Dam would not be built. Each year, a tribal fair and rodeo is held to commemorate that galvanizing event.
During the early 1990s, several tribal casinos, including Fort McDowell, were operating in Arizona. In accordance with the provisions of the Federal 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the tribes were waiting to sign gaming compacts with the state government. At the time, however, the governor opposed Indian gaming and called upon the U.S. Attorney's Office for support. Unannounced raids by FBI agents on five Indian casinos were ordered.
At the first light of day on May 12, 1992, agents invaded the Fort McDowell Casino, seizing the community's 349 gaming machines and loading them into moving trucks. Community members witnessing the raid took immediate action and called other community members, tribal leaders and the news media. Soon, using every available car, truck, and piece of movable heavy machinery, a blockade of the casino's access road was organized. A three-week standoff between the tribe and government followed. The Arizona governor ultimately was persuaded to sign a gaming compact with the tribe, thus paving the way for Indian gaming in Arizona. May 12 is now a tribal holiday.
The reservation is governed by a Tribal Council elected by tribal members pursuant to the Tribe's Constitution. The Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation takes pride in its economic development and the expansion of direct services to meet the changing needs of all tribal members while preserving traditional values.