Courtesy Fort McDowell Yavapai Tribe
A hoop dancer performs at a previous Fort McDowell event

Fort McDowell Pow Wow to Celebrate a 30-year ‘Winning Streak’

Lee Allen

Central Arizona’s tiny Yavapai Nation (950 enrolled members on a 40-square mile reservation) is about to get an influx of visitors that will double, triple or perhaps even quadruple its population.

The Yavapai Nation’s Fort McDowell Casino Pow Wow in early April is themed, “Celebrating a 30-Year Winning Streak.”

“We decided five years ago, when we hit our 25th anniversary of casino operations, that we wanted to do something different,” said pow wow coordinator and former councilmember Gwen Bahe, Yavapai/Kickapoo, to ICTMN. “Because tribes have always celebrated when they’ve done something significant…we decided the social and competitive dance nature of a pow wow would be appropriate.”

On April 4-6, dancers from across America will head to the sunny, warm environs outside Phoenix, Arizona, to break fry bread, renew acquaintances, and dance their moccasins off competing for $75,000 in prize money in adult dance categories that pay from $1,000 for 1st place to $200 for 5th place.

“If it wasn’t for the tribe, there wouldn’t be a casino, and if it wasn’t for the casino, there wouldn’t be a pow wow,” said Director of Casino Marketing, Tom McGill. “We started this five years ago to give back to the community as a display of our heritage and what actually happens in Indian Country. It’s both entertaining and educational and while our hotel and a lot of other lodging facilities are sold out, there will be a lot of slot machines available.”

“Despite the growth and success of this 5-year-old pow wow, we call it our ‘Baby Step Pow Wow’ because it was the first we had ever done at our casino,” Bahe said. “Because we are a gaming facility and our entertainment is 21-and-over, we only do adult category dances. That doesn’t mean the little ones can’t dance, just that we don’t offer children’s category competition.”


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