The guardians of the Mojave Desert

Americas Now

The guardians of the Mojave Desert

Two centuries after Native Americans were forced to move onto reservations by the new settlers arriving from Europe, the tables have been turned as “white” tenants are now being evicted from ancestral land along the Colorado River between Arizona and California.

It’s a tense reversal of fortune in which the members of the Colorado River Indian Tribes reservation claim they’ve been shot by “white” settlers who, in turn, accuse Native Americans of burning their homes to the ground.

The evictions were recently declared legal in a United States federal court, confirming the claims that the land is in fact part of the reservation established 150 years ago. But, as correspondent Mike Kirsch reports, both Native Americans and non-Indians say the battle is long from over.

The guardians of the Mojave Desert

The guardians of the Mojave Desert

Two centuries after Native Americans were forced to move onto reservations by the new settlers arriving from Europe, the tables have been turned as “white” tenants are now being evicted from ancestral land along the Colorado River between Arizona and California.

The Colorado River Indian Tribes is made up of four distinct tribes—the Mohave, Chemehuevi, Hopi and Navajo. The Tribes’ almost 300,000 acre reservation is located in Arizona and California with the Colorado River running through it.

This is the ancestral territory of the Mohave, whose aboriginal lands stretch across the famed Mojave Desert. Both the Mohave and the Chemehuevi tell ancient stories of their creation in this desert. Since time immemorial these tribes have come to the Colorado River Valley each spring after the flooding to plant their gardens of beans, squash and corn in the rich alluvial soils. After the United States established the Colorado River Indian Tribes’ reservation 150 years ago, the Mohave, Chemehuevi and later the other member tribes built their homes near the Colorado River.

After World War II, the U.S. invited Hopi and Navajo families to also settle on the reservation near the small town of Parker, Arizona. Today people from all four tribes make up the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT), and their diverse cultures are represented in the tribal seal and celebrated at tribal events.

Of the over 4,000 tribal members, more than half live on the reservation and the others live in nearby cities. But everyone comes together for important events like the recent commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Colorado River Indian Tribe’s reservation.