Yavapai-Apache leader shares spiritual beliefs about water, urges awareness
The Verde River should be treated as “a living spiritual entity,” says Yavapai-Apache Director of Cultural Resources Vincent Randall. Randall was the featured speaker at the Citizens Water Advocacy Group (CWAG) at a May 13 meeting in Prescott.
An active in water rights and water issues almost his entire life, Randall is insistent that people throughout Arizona and the Southwest must begin to acknowledge that water cannot be treated just as a commodity or simple natural resource. Rather, he says, “Water provides all of us with sustenance in our traditional social, cultural and religious practices. Our daily lives are intertwined with water, and we cannot ignore that it is a lifeline for us all.”
Randall served for several years on the Yavapai-Apache Tribal Council and for several terms, was tribal chair. He advocated for years that local, state and federal officials must resolve the issue of who has what rights to water, especially the Verde River, with headwaters in Northcentral Arizona.
Randall told the group that the Verde River is the last free-flowing river in Arizona. “Not just the Yavapai-Apache Nation, but all of us must work to protect the Verde River and negotiate a future settlement of the nation‘s water rights so that we can assure the long-term sustainability of the river and the communities it supports.”
As part of his presentation, Randall showed a 2015 documentary video of an earlier speech he has given during a statewide forum about water and water rights. Called “Indigenous Perspectives in Sustainable Water Practices,” Randall discusses the history of Native American tribes throughout the United States. He specifically focuses on those issues in the Southwest, especially Arizona.
Much of what he shared through the video was related to the spiritual beliefs that not only Yavapai-Apaches but also Navajos and other tribes have about water. “For millennia, the Yavapai and Apache people have relied upon the Verde River and its surroundings springs, seeps and creeks. These provide for all elements of life. Our stories, our ceremonies, our lessons about the land, how we interact with each other and how we live. Our daily lives are all intertwined with these waters.”
Randall noted that after he received a teaching degree from Northern Arizona University, he taught biology in the Jerome-Clarkdale schools from 1963 until 1992 – 29 years.
He said he used his scientific training and background to help educate other tribal members of how important water was to their future.
He said that in Apache tradition, they believed the Creator gave water power. Water started as a spring, then a creek, and a stream, then river and finally, the ocean. But the birthplace—a spring—was sacred and powerful. He warned that many believe the springs are in danger, and that when the springs disappear, so will life along the waterways.
“We’re all in the same boat. We must work together to protect and preserve our water in Arizona and the Southwest. And it has to start where the water starts. It’s like trying to stop a snowball. You have to stop it at the top before it gains momentum, not at the bottom after it is rolling.” QCBN
For more information about the Citizens Water Advocacy Group, visit cwag.org or call 928-445-4218.