Arizona Indian Living Treasures Awards

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David Sine


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

David Sine is a 76-year-old full-blood Yavapai. He was born and raised in Clarkdale, but recalls stories of his youth and the history of the Verde Valley as if it were yesterday.

"Medicine people saw things coming and happening today," he said. "They said things would be much better, trouble first, and that we would be taken off our land, but then things would get much better."

Sine was right. The Yavapai-Apache of Camp Verde and Clarkdale were removed from their designated reservation lands and moved to a prison camp in southern Arizona. While gone, white man settled on their property. But today, with casino dollars, the Yavapai-Apache Nation is reclaiming many of these lands through purchases. For Sine, the importance of an education to go along with the responsibility of new money is important.

"I was taught by my grandmother that I couldn’t survive without going to school and getting along with others and to work hard at what I was doing. We knew we had to learn to assimilate to the white-man’s culture for us to get anywhere. We were taught how to fit into society as we couldn’t just live off the land anymore.

"We were always trying to plan how we’d run away - maybe hop a freight train - but kids who were caught were treated pretty roughly. I think the schooling has brought us a hell of a long way compared to where we could be. Without that teaching, we wouldn’t have gotten this far."

Sine attended school at the Phoenix Indian School. During his junior year, he enlisted in the Army as an Infantry Man. He went on to fight in World War II off the Pacific for six years. As most Indians in the service, he served as a scout in the Pacific Islands. Even through a fearful experience that left him wounded at one point, having been shot in both legs, he knew he would survive as his grandmother had given him blessings before he left.

"Grandmother told me I would go and fight somewhere and it would be dangerous, but I would be blessed with our medicine and would return to the land again. After I returned, I went through a purification ceremony in Boynton Canyon."

Upon returning to Arizona at the age of 25, Sine decided he wanted to get his high school diploma so that he could go on to college. He enrolled at Mingus Union High School in Cottonwood, and despite the teasing, finished his degree.

"I knew in order to survive I would need an education," he said. "We didn’t have any money."

After graduation he returned to Phoenix to attend business college and learn accounting. He received his first job in San Carlos, the same area his ancestors were imprisoned in the late 1800s. On the side and during weekends, Sine did his art. Between paintings and murals on churches, the money earned was just enough to help him purchase more paint and canvases. After he retired, he moved back to Camp Verde and began to paint full-time.

The Yavapai-Apache Nation and Cliff Castle Casino have commissioned him to paint many of the murals and paintings on display in their buildings. When looking at Sine’s work, a story is told. Images that appear may simply look like as a series of designs. But the message spoken in a most quintessential form tells of the respect for a time now gone - a genealogical remembrance of ancient cultures.

"My paintings are based upon the region we are in - the art that existed in that time with the Anasazi and the Mogollon," Sine said. "They left these designs to us - designs you will now find in pottery, jewelry and things made. I am trying to interpret to the people a respect for these things so that they can be understood."

His focus, he said, in telling these stories, is to remind his people, especially the youth, of their heritage. "Our young people do not understand why things are done the way they are today. They don’t realize that these things are appreciated around the world.

"I took it upon myself to interpret this so that they would understand what the people who lived upon the land before us meant with these images. Young people today are not getting the interpretations or stories - the legends that were told to us that we based our politics, religion and way of life on. History is an important thing. We must take the best qualities of the past and leave the rest behind."

Yavapai Apache

Previous AILTA Recipients

Mary H. Begay
Craft: Weaver
Tribe: Navajo
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