Yavapai County was one of the four original Arizona Counties created by the 1st Arizona Territorial Legislature. Soon thereafter, the counties of Apache, Coconino, Maricopa, and Navajo were carved from the original Yavapia County. Yavapai County's present boundaries were established in 1891.
The county is named after the Yavapai people, who were the principal inhabitants at the time that this area was annexed by the United States.
Yavapai are an indigenous people to Arizona. Historically, the Yavapai were divided into four geographical bands that considered themselves separate peoples: the Tolkapaya (Western Yavapai), the Yavape' (Northwestern Yavapai), the Kwevkapaya (Southeastern Yavapai) and the Wipukpa (Northern Yavapai - Verde Valley Yavapai).
Another band was the Matakwadapaya. This group is believed to have mixed with the Mohave and Quechan and no longer exists, but several Mohave and Quechan families trace their family history to Yavapai roots.
The Yavapai have much in common with their neighbors, the Havasupai, the Hualapai, and the Athabascan Apache. Often, Yavapai were mistaken as Apache by American settlers, variously being referred to as "Apache-Mohave" or "Tonto-Apache".
Before the 1860's, when the settlers began exploring for gold in the area, the Yavapai occupied an area of approximately 20,000 square miles bordering the San Francisco Peaks on the north, the Pinaleno Mountains and Mazatzal Mountains on the southeast, and Martinez Lake and the Colorado River at the point where Lake Havasu is now on the west, and almost to the Gila River and the Salt RIver to the south.
Yavapai believe that their people originated "in the beginning", or "many years ago", when either a tree, or a maize plant sprouted from the ground in what is now Montezuma Well, brining the Yavapai into the world. Most archaeologists agree that the Yavapai originated from Patayan groups who migrated east from the Colorado River region to become Upland Yumans, and then splitting off to become Yavapai somewhere around 1300 AD.
Yavapai-Prescott Indian Reservation, when it was established in 1935, occupied only 75 acres of the former Fort Whipple Military Reserve in central Arizona. In 1956, the reservation received an additional 1,320 acres.
The tribe's rich history dates back centuries, when the women wove intricate baskets and the men were largely hunters and gatherers. The tribe's first chief was Sam Jimulla, succeeded by his wife Viola. She was the first woman chieftess among North American Indians.
There are three primary groups of Yavapai existing today - located at Fort McDowell, Camp Verde and Prescott.