Yavapai leaders reveal plans for reservation
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 16, 2006
FORT MCDOWELL - The Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation's three recently elected
leaders started their terms Wednesday by pointing to developments on the
reservation, such as a K-12 school and a justice center.
At the Tribal Council inauguration, Fort McDowell's leaders also praised the
reservation's modern successes and changes.
"We live in a prosperous time, but we can make it better," said Paul Russell,
who is starting his first term as a Tribal Council member.
Russell was elected Jan. 10 with two incumbents, Vice President Bernadine
Burnette and Secretary Pansy Thomas.
Wednesday's inauguration coincided with the three-day Southwest Indian Gaming
Conference and Expo, which this year brought tribal leaders from Arizona and New
Mexico to Fort McDowell's newly opened Radisson resort.
Representatives from about a dozen tribes were nearby and witnessed the
Wednesday also marked the end of Gwen Bahe's 14 years as a Tribal Council
member. She did not seek re-election this year. Burnette won the vice
presidential election with 103 votes; Russell won his council seat with 101
votes; and Thomas was re-elected with 232 votes.
Burnette, who has also been a Tribal Council member for 14 years, mentioned
plans to build a K-12 school at Fort McDowell, which would keep children on the
reservation to learn Yavapai culture.
The 'Hmań 'shawa Elementary School, which goes up to third grade, is the only
school now at Fort McDowell.
The school teaches Yavapai culture, including the traditional language. Students
from the elementary school sang the tribal anthem in both English and Yavapai at
"We are first, foremost Yavapais, before we are doctors, lawyers, council
members," Burnette said. "This is what separates us from mainstream society. . .
. We must teach our culture, our language, our customs and our values. Otherwise
we may lose our sovereignty."
Burnette also mentioned construction of the tribe's new justice center, which
will include the tribal court, prosecutor's office and Police Department.
Eventually, it will house the Fire Department and detention facility, she said.
And Burnette called for increasing funds for substance-abuse treatment programs
and quality health care.
An election challenge was filed against Burnette last month based on the
validity of her last name. The challenge was thrown out by the Election Board
and Tribal Court. Burnette mentioned the ordeal in her speech.
"If you spend petty time on a surname, I'm sure you can get out there and fight
alcohol and drugs," she said.
Russell wanted to combine the talents and energy of the elderly and the young to
tackle drug and health issues.
"Tomorrow, the work begins," Russell said.