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The Colorado River Indian Tribes

The Colorado River Indian Reservation stretches along the Colorado River border of California and Arizona having the river like a spine running the entire length of the reservation. The reservation encompasses some 278,000 acres and is home to some 2,400 individuals from four distinct Native American tribes, the Mohave, the Chemihuevi, the Hopi and the Navajo. The reservation was created by act of Congress in 1865 originally for just the Mohave and Chemihuevi, to whom the land was home prior to the appearance of the white man. In 1945, some Hopi and Navajo were relocated to the reservation by the Bureau of Indian Affairs from their traditional homes in north eastern Arizona. The largest of the four nations on the reservation is that of the Mohave. They received their name from their term "aha-makave" which means "beside the water". The Mohave have lived on the area for thousands of years and their lands were bordered by the neighboring Hualapi to the north and the Quechen, who were their southern neighbors. They traded with tribes reaching all the way to the coast of California and up into what is now Nevada (ENAT, 143-144).

The Chemihuevi, whose name comes from a Mohave term dealing with fish, call themselves the "Nu Wu" or "people". They are closely related to the Southern Paiute people of southern Nevada (ENAT, 95-98). Their traditional homelands stretched along the Colorado between Nevada and Yuma, Arizona and it is their that the Chemihuevi acquired their skills in basketweaving. The Chemihuevi were noted for their high quality and beautiful baskets, but the art is dying out today because of a shortage of the native plants needed for their baskets. Few basket weavers exist today on the reservation.

The Hopi are from northern Arizona where their reservation is totally surrounded by that of the Navajo. The Hopi were traditionally village dwellers whose homes were built atop mesas where they could provide a natural defense against enemies. They, along with the Navajo have now resided upon the Colorado River Reservation for some fifty years where the skills of both tribal members in farming under arid conditions helped them and the reservation thrive.

Today the four tribes continue to maintain and observe their traditional ways and religious and culturally unique identities while functioning as one geo-political unit. The combined tribe is governed by a council of nine members and overseen by a tribal Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer who come from amongst the council members.

The flag of the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) was adopted on January 4, 1979 from a design submitted to a contest by tribal member Margie McCabe. The intent of the design contest was that the flag uphold the tribes tradition and indicate the uniqueness of the four nations living and working together as one. The design was approved by the CRIT council on November 22, 1978 and designated January 4th of each year as CRIT Flag Day ("The Colorado Indian Tribes Museum", pamphlet, undated). This local holiday is observed by celebrating and appreciating the tribal unity of the four CRIT peoples.

The flag designed by Ms. McCabe is essentially a horizontal triband. The top third is light blue upon which is an orange rising sun. The orange rays represent the eternity of the rising and setting of the sun on both the land and water of the reservation. One can see an inspiration for this in the flag of the state of Arizona which also bears a sunburst in its upper half.

The central stripe is tan or light brown. This symbolizes the earth from which the tribe reaps its food and builds its homes. The bottom is dark blue with two white wavy lines. This, of course represents the Colorado River which gives life to the earth and people of the reservation.

Centered on the tan stripe and overflowing into the sun on the top are four feathers, one for each of the four tribes. These feathers appear in white tipped with black. Below the four feathers is the tribal acronym "CRIT" in black capital letters.

This strikingly handsome design definitely met the terms of the design contest and continues as one of the more imaginative flags in use by the Native American peoples of the United States.

Don Healy, Bisbee, Az 85603