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Irataba, c. 1864
|Died||May 3 or 4, 1874 (aged 59–60)
Colorado River Indian Reservation, Arizona Territory, United States
Irataba (Mohave: eecheeyara tav also known as Yara tav, Yarate:va, Arateve; c. 1814 – 1874) was a leader of the Mohave Nation, known as a mediator between the Mohave and the United States. He was born near the Colorado River in present-day Arizona. Irataba was a renowned orator and one of the first Mohave to speak English, a skill he used to develop relations with the United States.
Irataba first encountered European Americans in 1851, when he assisted the Sitgreaves Expedition. In 1854, he met Amiel Whipple, then leading an expedition crossing the Colorado. Several Mohave aided the group, and Irataba agreed to escort them through the territory of the Paiute to the Old Spanish Trail, which would take them to southern California. Noted for his large physical size and gentle demeanor, he later helped and protected other expeditions, earning him a reputation among whites as the most important native leader in the region.
Against Irataba's advice, in 1858 Mohave warriors attacked the first emigrant wagon train to use Beale's Wagon Road through Mohave country. As a result, the U.S. War Department sent a detachment under Colonel William Hoffman to pacify the tribe. Following a series of confrontations known as the Mohave War, Hoffman succeeded in dominating the natives, and demanded that they allow the passage of settlers through their territory. To ensure compliance, Fort Mohave was constructed near the site of the battle in April 1859. Hoffman also imprisoned several Mohave leaders. Having been an advocate for friendly relations with the whites, Irataba became the nation's Aha macave yaltanack, an elected, as opposed to hereditary, leader.
As a result of his many interactions with U.S. officials and settlers, Irataba was invited to Washington, D.C., in 1864, for an official meeting with members of the U.S. military and its government, including President Abraham Lincoln. In doing so, he became the first Native American from the Southwest to meet an American president. He received considerable attention during his tours of the U.S. capital, and of New York City and Philadelphia, where he was given gifts, including a silver-headed cane from Lincoln. Upon his return he negotiated the creation of the Colorado River Indian Reservation, which caused a split in the Mohave Nation when he led several hundred of his supporters to the Colorado River valley. The majority of the Mohave preferred to remain in their ancestral homelands near Fort Mohave and under the leadership of their hereditary leader, Homoseh quahote, who was less enthusiastic about direct collaboration with whites. As leader of the Colorado River band of Mohave, Irataba encouraged peaceful relations with whites, served as a mediator between the warring tribes in the area, and during his later years continued to lead the Mohave in their ongoing conflicts with the Paiute and Chemehuevi.
As noted by ethnographer Lorraine Sherer, "to some he is an heroic figure, to others he was a white collaborator who did not stand up for Mojave rights." The Irataba Society, a non-profit charity run by the Colorado River Indian Tribes, was established in 1970 in Parker, Arizona, where a sports venue, Irataba Hall, is also named after him. In 2002, the US Bureau of Land Management designated 32,745 acres (132.51 km2) in the Eldorado Mountains as Ireteba Peaks Wilderness. In March 2015, Mohave Tribal chairman Dennis Patch credited Irataba with ensuring that "the Mohaves stayed on land they had lived on since time immemorial."
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