A Tribe on the Threshold

Haunted by drugs, alcohol and unemployment, the Hualapai Indians look for a savior in uranium

But both Wally Majenty and his mother Malinda Powskey have seen firsthand that a Hualapai trying to better himself can be the object of resentment rather than support. "It's really hard to succeed here because a majority of the people want to pull you down," Powskey says. And when Majenty visits Peach Springs, he says, "They call me `white boy,' because I'm different--I'm doing something." It troubles him to see old buddies like Falcon Honga getting fat and drinking until they drop. "Falcon's a great guy, but he's got to get himself together," Majenty says.

A onetime all-state basketball player at Seligman High, Honga was honorably discharged from the Army about four years ago. He returned to Peach Springs but hasn't found much work to speak of. So he takes care of his two-year-old daughter, Cougar, while his wife works at the local medical clinic. The little girl tags along while Dad wiles away the hours drinking and carrying on with pals like Elvis Havatone and Frank Cordova.

"I don't do much but hang around," says 26-year-old high school dropout Havatone, as he, Honga, Cordova, and little Cougar sit in a pickup truck outside the tribal headquarters.

Havatone didn't participate in the tribe's Sobriety Festival, held over the Memorial Day weekend. Sponsored by the Hualapai government, the festival included a powwow, construction of a sweat lodge and a novel challenge. The Sobriety Festival dared tribal members with alcohol-abuse problems--a big chunk of the population--to quit drinking for the weekend. Those who took the challenge had to sign in sober three times a day at "sobriety checkpoints."

They won themselves a "Sobriety Festival" tee shirt if they made it for a day without drinking. If they stayed sober for the whole weekend, their names went into a drawing for a number of prizes. The prizes show the contradictions in Hualapai life: microwaves, stereos, a weekend in Laughlin, Nevada--and horses. Dozens of Hualapai participated in the challenge, and about half who signed up stayed straight--at least for that weekend--according to one tribal member. But Elvis Havatone wasn't one of them.

"It didn't mean nothing to me to stay straight for a few days," he says. "You got to quit for good when you quit." Havatone isn't ready to do that. He turns away and says, as if to himself, "I got a drinking problem, and I don't have no work, but I'm trying to work it out. I'm still a person, you know.

« Previous Page
My Voice Nation Help
Phoenix Concert Tickets