Williams, John

John Williams 1976

John Williams, 2017 Inductee (1904-1983)

The inductee from Fort McDowell is Mr. John Williams. His Indian name was Kehedwah. He played a leading role in the Yavapai tribe’s eventual victory in the 1970s fight against the building of Orme Dam. The planned construction of the Central Arizona project storage facility, if built, would have threatened forced relocation of the tribe, loss of their land and loss of their community.

In 1975, Mr. Williams was the only Yavapai who went to federal court with four other plaintiffs in the fight against the dam. Later that year, Mr. Williams traveled to Washington with four other tribal members to lobby the U.S. Senate against construction of the dam.

Williams, who could not read or write, said of his trips to Washington, “I never went to school. But when it comes to my land, I sure know how to speak. I am old and sick, but when we are in Washington, I don’t need my cane. I run around all day fast. We don’t care about the money. We want to keep our land.”

In 1977, he was named an Honorary Indian Historian by the American Indian Historical Society. In 1983, he was honored by the Arizona State Senate with its “Spirit of Arizona” Award. He was born on the San Carlos Reservation in 1904. Mr. Williams was raised in wild desert-mountain terrain by his grandmother who taught him Yavapai history and survival skills which would give him extraordinary strength and confidence.

His life successes included being a working cowboy, a singer of Yavapai songs, a laborer, historian and author. A Skull Valley rancher gave him is name. He spent 20 years working for the City of Phoenix on the Fort McDowell water lines.Working with Yavapai elder Mike Harrison and Dr. Sigrid Khera, an ASU anthropologist, he recorded Yavapai history and songs. After their deaths, the “Oral History of the Yavapai” was published in 2012.