I noticed an article in Friday's edition of the Roundup regarding the celebration at the Mazatzal Casino for the Tonto Apache Indian Tribe's battle to obtain tribal recognition and 85 acres of land, held in trust with the federal government, for their homeland.
The article gives credit for this success to a Reverend O. J. Martin and "many others" in obtaining their reservation. Not to take credit away from the Rev. Martin, but to give credit where it is due, one of the "many others" was Doris Sturges Harger, a longtime resident of Payson, who also recognized the sad plight of the Indians living on "the hill" as it was called, who were forced off that land and moved to Forest Service land across the highway from their present location.
She was the prime force behind the battle to get this recognition for the tribe. She personally contacted her friends, Governor Paul Fannin and Senator Barry Goldwater, as well as Representative Sam Steiger.
With Rep. Steiger, Chief Melton Campbell and the matriarch of the tribe, Ola Smith, she went to Washington, D. C. to plead their case before the Congress of the United States. They were successful in their efforts, and Oct. 6, 1972, by an act of Congress signed by then President Richard Nixon, they became known as the Tonto Apache Tribe, along with the 85 acres of land.
Doris is presently residing at Manzanita Manor in Payson, and I think it would be a wonderful thing to have her name mentioned as one who fought for the establishment of the Tonto Apache Tribe and a home of their own. Without this trip to Washington, the tribe may not have had the reservation or the casino, which has been such a help to them, and Payson residents as well. The tribe has not only received benefits from the casino, but it has shared its wealth with numerous programs in Payson.
I, for one, have been very thankful that the Tonto Apaches are a welcome addition to our community, and that they have a home of their own, instead of being moved from pillar to post, as the homeless often are in this "land of the free."
Kay Loftfield, Payson