Harrison, Mike

Mike Harrison, 2019 Inductee (1886-1983)

Mike Harrison is described as a bold, strong, proud Yavapai. Instrumental in having the book, “Oral History of the Yavapai,” written, Mike asked his friend Carolina Butler to “help him write a book to give the Indian’s side.”

Carolina met with ASU anthropologist Sigrid Khera, Ph.D., who soon started recording sessions with Yavapai elders Mike Harrison and John Williams. The recordings went on for years. In addition to his stories, Mike’s photo graces the cover of the book. (oralhistoryoftheyavapai.com/)

As a proud member of the tribe, Mike possessed an outstanding knowledge of the Yavapai’s history and way of life. He was a driving force in the community and was one of the early opponents of the proposed Orme Dam, which threatened the relocation of the tribe and loss of their land.

He spoke at a December 1972 press conference, demanding that Uncle Sam be told, “We don’t want the dam here.” Significantly, the same day 100 years previously in Yavapai history was the tragic Skeleton Cave Massacre, raising the question, “Is there any wonder why Mike Harrison always dreamed of recording the Indian’s side of history?”

Mike was a singer and played the flute and fiddle. He made both instruments. The fiddle was made from a big mescal, and he used horse tail hair for the strings.

Not formally educated, Mike’s father, Oskannya, a spiritual leader at Mayer and a healer, said he would never let Mike go to school. The government boarding school took Mike’s two older brothers and two sisters; they never returned home and weren’t seen again.

Mike served on the Tribal Council in 1927. He spoke Yavapai, Spanish and English. His legacy lives on.

 

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