Used by permission from the Yavapai-Prescott Tribe
“All we want is equal opportunity and the right to take our place as full fledged Americans.”— Viola Jimulla, quoted in 1983 Woman of the Year award
There are many examples throughout history of women who have assumed leadership roles following the death of their politically active husbands. Viola Jimulla, Yavapai Indian Chieftess, is one such remarkable woman. Born in 1878 on the San Carlos Apache Reservation, Viola attended the Phoenix Indian School for several years and then in 1900 went to live with her family in the vicinity of Prescott. She married Sam Jimulla, raised a family, and became an active part of the tribal community as well as the Prescott community. Her ability to care for and work with both the Indian and Anglo cultures would have a long lasting benefit for her tribe and for the greater Prescott area.
Sam was a leader in a quiet way, while Viola was full of energy and action. The Jimullas worked with local and national officials to set aside 75 acres of land for a reservation, the Prescott-Yavapai Indian Reservation, in 1935. In the 1950s, the reservation was enlarged to 1,327 acres. That same year Sam was appointed chief of the Prescott Yavapais by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and was officially elected chief by the tribe. After his accidental death in 1940, Viola became Chieftess because in her words, “I had to help my people in whatever way they needed.” For twenty-six years, until her death in December 1966, Viola guided her tribe with wisdom and kindness.
Mrs. Jimulla’s personal strengths and skills helped her people adapt and grow with the surrounding Anglo community. She was a true leader during years of changing conditions for Indian tribes and reservations. Her efforts helped the Yavapais achieve better living conditions and more modern facilities than most other tribes. Jimulla formed a bridge between the two cultures, Anglo and Indian, yet she honored the traditions of her tribe. She weaved baskets expertly, wore the traditional dress of her tribe, and enjoyed preparing her food in the old ways.
During her leadership, the Yavapai tribe withdrew its claim to land grants to the old Fort Whipple military reservation, with the stipulation that the land be used for a community college and a park. The Prescott campus of the Yavapai College is now at that site. She gave her consent for the college to occupy the land saying she knew education is the future of her people.
Jimulla was influential in the religious area, also. She was the first Yavapai to be baptized into the Presbyterian Church in a mission established near the reservation. She and others of her tribe revitalized the Yavapai Indian Mission to become the Presbyterian Mission in 1922. Jimulla served the mission as an elder, Sunday School superintendent, and interpreter. In 1950 she was a commissioner to the General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati where she made a speech on behalf of the mission. In 1951 the mission became an organized church. Later, in 1957, it was reorganized as the Trinity Presbyterian Church, recognizing the three founding entities – the new Presbyterians in Prescott, the founding church and the Presbyterian Indian people.
The Prescott Yavapai Tribal Council was formed under Jimulla’s leadership to better ensure the people’s voice in their own governing. Jimulla’s descendents continued to guide her people, as two of her daughters became chieftess in the years following their mother’s death. Then in 1972, Patricia McGee, Viola Jimulla’s granddaughter, became tribal president, serving from 1972 to 1988 and 1990 to 1994.