The People By The River

Chairwoman Patricia Madueo

The Fort Mojave Tribe is rapidly gaining a reputation as one of the most progressive tribes in the Southwestern United States. Although the Mojaves were residents of the Colorado River Basin in the 18th century, the Fort Mojave reservation was not created until 1910. The tribal lands consist of alternating sections of land where the states of Arizona, California, and Nevada meet. These sections of land, comprising more than 33,000 acres, extend from the southern limit of Bullhead City to just north of Interstate 40 near Needles, CA. Because of its proximity and the heritage of the tribe, the Fort Mojaves are known as "The People by the River."

Like the river that flows through the tribal lands, the Fort Mojaves have seen many changes in the land and the people coming into the area.

The Fort Mojave Tribe, with approximately 1,000 members, has ambitious plans for the future. Under the direction of the tribal council, which was formed in the 1960s, the Fort Mojaves, like their trading ancestors before them, are developing extensive networks. In the past few years, the tribe has established many businesses. In February, the tribe opened perhaps its biggest business venture, the Avi Casino, and plans for a second casino are underway in addition to gas stations, restaurants and many other businesses. The tribe has come a long way.

The key factor in this growth is the water rights held by the tribe. The Fort Mojaves have a guaranteed water supply like no others in this desert region. The tribe owns the "first call" on the water which means no others can take water until the tribe's rights have been satisfied. This right is the driving force which will fuel the future development of the tribal lands.

Since the earliest rumors began circulating about the Ward Valley Low-Level Radioactive Waste Dump, we have voiced strong opposition. This type of project could severely, and most negatively, impact the future of our tribal nation.

Many people ask, "With what seems like endless natural resources, why has it taken so long to develop reservation lands?" Besides the obvious lack of planning expertise and dollars, there has been an even more basicinstinct that we wrestle with daily, to be environmentally sensitive. Our natural ties to the land and water have always remained uppermost in our thoughts. How do we control the quality and scope of development projects and how do we maintain the precious eco-system that we have lived with for so many generations?

A project such as the Ward Valley Low-Level Radioactive Waste Site has been proven to be potentially damaging to the natural water systems that now cross our reservation, feed our plant life and even the Colorado River -- forever our lifeline, this wonderful river that has served our needs since our beginning, this river that will continue to be our lifeline.

So now we ask others, how can we take any other stance but opposition? We were placed here as guardians of the land, caretakers of the water, and neighbors of the desert animals. We must protect the resources that have cared for us.

The Fort Mojave Indian Tribe will continue to wage war against this project. At every possible opportunity we will make our opposition heard. In as many public forums as we find ourselves, our shouts of "No Nuke Dump" will be heard.

Although our financial resources may dwindle, our stronger bond with our environment will sustain us, as it has for hundreds of years. Under the current leadership, the Fort Mojave Tribe is well positioned to continue their tradition of a rich heritage as they move into the next century.