Arizona Indian Living Treasures Awards

To Honor the Cultures of Arizona Native American Tribes

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Ted Vaughn


Two Yavapai Men Honored: Arizona Living Treasures
Story & Photos by Pamela Williams (excerpt)

It’s not often that the elders in a community are honored, especially when it comes to a lifetime achievement award. But for the Yavapai people, two senior Yavapai Indian artists, Ted Vaughn and David Sine, have been given such an honor by the state in being named Arizona Living Treasures.

Ted Vaughn is recognized as a Yavapai silversmith and language teacher and David Sine as a Yavapai painter.

Ted Vaughn is a 72-year-old Yavapai elder who lives in Prescott. Born in Los Angeles, he moved to Arizona before he was three and attended the Fort McDowell Day School. After getting hurt while riding a half-broke horse, his grandparents brought him to live with them in Prescott. From Prescott he attended the Truxton Canyon Boarding School near Peach Springs. Later he attended Washington Traditional School in Prescott and Prescott High School. Vaughn has only a few memories of his childhood.

Vaughn also left high school to go into the service - for him, the Navy. He spent eight years in the service and was in the Korean War and World War II. But upon retrospect, he feels he wouldn’t have joined if he had the proper guidance as a youth.

"I joined the service to get away from my family," he said. "I wanted my independence. If I had proper guidance I would have gone on to college and finished school. I knew I was poor and couldn’t afford preparatory courses then and I didn’t know about scholarships."

As the Golden Gloves boxing champion in Prescott, Vaughn feels he could have earned an athletic scholarship.

Education continued to remain important to Vaughn though and he earned his G.E.D. after two years in the service. After returning to the states and leaving the service, he worked for Indian Health Service for many years, establishing an x-ray unit on the Hualapai Reservation. He also worked as a cowboy and rancher. Later he became interested in flying. This stemmed from a need to get patients from the reservation to the hospital in a quicker manner.

Vaughn soon began flying a helicopter for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, patrolling the Navajo and Hopi joint-use area. While working on the Hopi Reservation he became interested in silver smithing. He was told to take a class at Northland College where a Hopi man and wife taught. There he learned the Hopi style of jewelry making.

"I learned their style, but I used a high polish on my silver while they used a dull finish. I was doing contemporary work, too. Then when I moved to Prescott again in 1981 after finishing my work with the BIA. I began to study Yavapai mythology and used it in my work."

Today, in addition to doing his silver work he also teaches the Yavapai language to Yavapai in Fort McDowell and in the Verde Valley. Preserving his culture through stories, history and the language has become very important to him.

"In analyzing the words of the Yavapai you begin to decipher the history of the people. We can compare our language to the Paipai in Mexico and the Supai and discover when the Spaniards came by word differences and similarities. There are a lot of new words that have been introduced through time and no words for certain modern technologies. Because the language is oral, it often gets misconstrued."

Documenting the Yavapai language, deciphering meaning and sharing his findings are all a part of his art and contribution to his culture and others for which he has been honored for.

Yavapai Apache

Previous AILTA Recipients

Royce Manuel
Craft: Calendar Stick Carrier, Men’s Agave Basket Making, Storyteller
Tribe: Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community
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