The fort McDowell Yavapai: From pawns to powerbrokers

Michael J. O'Sullivan*, Natalie Waugh, Wendy Espeland

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Faced with the loss of their homeland due to a proposed dam, a small American Indian community initially seemed powerless to prevent their relocation. This threat was associated with substantial detrimental impacts on the physical, psychological, and economic functioning of the community and its members. While the proposed dam initially was stopped in 1976, it was resurrected by local political and public pressure following two years of devastating floods affecting a nearby metropolitan area. A federally funded and highly visible study was then commissioned to investigate the impacts of and alternatives to the proposed dam. An independent investigation collected data assessing the psychological impact on the Yavapai community caused by the threat of relocation. As a result of the visibility and attention the Yavapai gained from this study, their role as a politically active pressure group, and their shrewd use of the leverage they gained, the tribal community succeeded in eliminating the proposed dam and the accompanying threat of relocation. The present case illustrates both the process of empowerment as well as the efficacy of a large and thorough scientific study of alternatives for finding a viable option for such divergent interest groups. The political and mental health ramifications of these realities are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-97
Number of pages25
JournalPrevention in Human Services
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - May 7 1984

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Leadership and Management
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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