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Tribe takes last Fossil Creek trip

The Camp Verde Journal of Camp Verde, Arizona

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While Fossil Creek may soon be under federal protection, it's a time of mixed emotions for the Yavapai-Apache Nation.

Though happy that the creek, sacred to the tribe, will be preserved, doing so means that no one will be able to visit the area for quite sometime.

The creek is of spiritual significance to the Yavapai and Apache; it also provided a hiding place for many people in the 1870s when the U.S. Army began to step up its presence in the Verde Valley. Many families were able to avoid detection while the rest of the tribe was exiled to San Carlos.

For nearly a century, the creek was also home to the Childs-Irving Power Plant, which used the waters to provide energy for the mining industry and communities like Payson and Phoenix.

The plant was shut down in 2005, and APS pledged $13 million to help restore the creek and its fish population. These efforts, along with the oversight of the U.S. Forest Service, resulted in closing off the creek to the public.

In fact, the tribe worked hard to lobby in Washington, D.C., for federal protection of the creek's waters.

Last month, several members of the tribe made one last trip to Fossil Creek.

Vincent Randall, former tribal chairman, and tribal elder Bob Bear performed an Apache water blessing at the springs that feed the creek.

"This is a sad day because many of us elders realize that this is our final visit to a place that is so important to our people," Randall said. "But it is also a good day to know that the water, which is life, has been restored."

Everyone looks forward to a day when the unique natural beauty of the creek can be enjoyed responsibly once more.

"The opportunity to visit Fossil Creek with elders of the Yavapai-Apache Nation and the forest service, and not only offer a blessing, but also to pay tribute to a place that is so holy to our people, was truly an honor," said Tribal Chairman Thomas Beauty. "Historically, the Yavapai and Apache people were stewards of the land, and I am very proud to work with the forest service in restoring Fossil Creek."

Beauty said that he was confident that the hard work of the tribe would result in "many positive impacts" for not just the tribe, but also the residents of the entire Verde Valley.

Copyright 2009 The Camp Verde Journal, Camp Verde, Arizona. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: February 4, 2009

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