Mojave Tribe: History after 1860
By: Fort Mojave Indian Tribe
The late 1800s were years of change for the Mojave. In 1861, constraints of the American Civil War forced the military to abandon Ft. Mojave. Tribal leadership was in upheaval as the Great Chief Homoseh awahot relinquished his post to Yara tav, who favored peace with the Americans. He had seen their power, having traveled to Los Angeles, San Francisco and to Washington, DC to visit President Lincoln.
In March 1865 the US Government created the Colorado Indian Reservation near Parker, the southern range of the Mojave. Yara tav, though disapproving of the poor farmland, led 500 to 800 Mojaves to the new reservation at Parker Valley. Homoseh awahot resumed his post as great chief to lead those who refused to leave the Mojave Valley. The people were split into two tribes.
Homoseh awahot was succeeded by his son Empote awatacheech, John Potachecha in 1875, who when he died two years later was succeeded by his 8-year old son Hobelia.
Those living around the fort were called Ft. Mojaves when the building and 14,000 acres were transferred from the War Department to the Interior Department in 1890. The fort became an industrial boarding school for the Ft. Mojave and other non-reservation Indians.
The plan was to eradicate native language and culture. A compulsory education law was passed, and truant children forcibly returned to school were often whipped and locked in an attic for days, and given water and a slice of bread for meals.
The Indians were taught Anglo farming methods, but with no land of their own, they looked elsewhere for work. Many turned to the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad (later the Santa Fe), which came to Needles in 1883. Others worked on river boats, in the mines, some sold beadwork and pottery dolls to train tourists. The Mojave became urban Indians living in Needles.
The Great Chief Hobelia, now 10 years old, went to school in 1892, his name anglicized to Pete Lambert. He was the last great chief of the Mojaves. In 1905 students were required to adapt English surnames in place of their traditional clan and individual names.
In 1911, by executive order, the Ft. Mojaves were granted a reservation consisting of the old military reserve, areas called the hay and wood reserves on the California and Nevada side of the Colorado River, and adjacent checkerboard land on the Arizona side, a total of about 31,300 acres. The checkerboard arrangement came about because the government gave the railroad every other section of land.
The boarding school closed in 1931, and children began attending school in Needles. The 20th Century was closing in. In 1936 a great flood washed out Mojave homes in Arizona, Needles too was flooded. To replace these homes, a new village was built outside Needles in 1947 on land bought by the tribe, and later declared part of the reservation.
The traditional tribal leadership was changed forever in 1957 with the approval of the Ft. Mojave Constitution, and with it the creation of a seven member tribal council.
Making up that first council were tribal chairman Francis Stillman, vice chairman Hubert McCord, and council members Claude Lewis, Joe Davidson, Rudolph Bryan, and husband and wife Harwood and Minerva Jenkins.