Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation Celebrates 30th Annual Sovereignty Day

Yavapai Sovereignty Day

FORT MCDOWELL, AZ – The Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation recently held its 30th annual Sovereignty Day Celebration, a milestone anniversary commemorating one of the most significant days in Fort McDowell’s history. 

Following a continental breakfast and posting of the colors, veterans led a four-mile commemorative march from the Fort McDowell Recreation Center to the We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort. The historically significant morning-long event emulates the 1992 protest march from Fort McDowell Casino to the Arizona State Capitol, with hay wagons available for elders, young children and others unable to complete the four-mile trek. The walk was followed by an informative program, luncheon and entertainment at the old Fort McDowell Bingo Hall.

Bernadine Burnett Sovereignty Day
Bernadine Burnette, President of the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, speaks at the old Fort McDowell Bingo Hall.

Three decades ago, federal agents and U.S. marshals raided the Fort McDowell Gaming Center. Before they could leave with the 349 slot machines they had confiscated, more than 100 tribal members, community members, casino employees and casino guests blockaded the only road out. The subsequent three-week non-violent standoff culminated in the state signing compacts with Arizona tribes – paving the way for Indian gaming throughout the state.

“At this time every year, we honor our parents, grandparents, friends and other tribal members who so bravely – and peacefully – deterred the efforts of government officials to attack our tribal sovereignty and self-determination,” said Bernadine Burnette, President of the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. “Their passion, commitment, and firm belief in preserving what rightfully belonged to us has sculpted not only our tribal council and members but the entire landscape of Arizona gaming. This is a very proud day for the Yavapai people.”

Since the fateful event in 1992, the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation has continued to prosper, give back to the community, and celebrate their rich heritage. In October 2020, this resilient, progressive and inclusive spirit was demonstrated with the opening of the We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort, a contemporary, state-of-the-art dining and entertainment facility that has set a new bar for gaming in the Valley.