Apacheland Days: 50 Years of movie-making history in Junction

Photos/Story By Cherokee Mangus
Junction, Arizona (NFIC) Feb. 2010

Apache tribal dance with
boys and girls in circle

The first Apacheland Days held during January at the Superstition Mountain Museum was a celebration of Apache Junction's 50 year movie-making history where Ronald Reagan narrator of "Death Valley Days" began his movie career.

The Apacheland Days event began with award winning POW/MIA/KIA Honor Guard posting colors.

The group commander, David Carrasco, [Apache] opened the ceremony to honor and make welcome to the San Carlos Apache Intermediate School Dancers.  Carrasco also read the names of US Soldiers killed, January 2010, in the Afghanistan war. The distant trumpet is heard from the old Stamp Mill and Taps was played by Sgt. Cleo Riley ending the honor guard flag ceremony.

The authentic Apache Crown Dance started from the east, as is the tradition, and colorfully moved toward the dance circle.


Sgt. Larin Begay

The boys age 10 to age 13 danced spiritual songs wearing the tall brightly colored Apache Crown symbols. The girls joined the dance circle wearing authentic Apache beaded Moccasins and full-length traditional red, yellow, pink, and gold regalia. 

Michael Stevens, the San Carlos group leader, requested that photographers wait until after the opening dance songs as “...the first songs are prayer songs.”

Stevens explained that prayer songs are for the safety of the POW/MIA/KIA Honor Guard. The second song the group danced to was a prayer for the people gathered. Stevens said, “It’s good for Apaches to dance again along the Apache trade-route [Apache Trail] ...the Superstitions mountian is like our church,” he said.

Apache Junction area was a stagecoach stop before Arizona statehood in 1912. In 2005 the Salt River Project honored Arizona's rich American Indian heritage at the Superstition Mountian Museum.

The guest speaker, Eva Tulene Watt, was a White Mountain Apache invited to share the details of her life. Watt’s book, Don’t Let The Sun Step Over You, is a history of the working Apaches on a “road-crew” as the road was necessary for the heavy equipment to bring supplies to complete the Roosevelt Dam.  


 Commander David
Carrasco, (Apache)

The historic Apache Trail “trade-route” was 41.5 miles of dirt first trodden by the Indians. By 1915 the Apache Trail was nationally advertised as the most scenic mountain road in America.

Apacheland Days featured southwest Leathercraft Artist, Ray Briggs, displayed an exhibit of hand-tooled saddles, spur-straps, belts, hat-bands and western wear representing the Cowboy and American Indian.

Stuntman, Ron Nix, and Rodeo Hall of Fame, Troy Nabors couldn’t easily get a break as folks wanted autographs and photos with the stars. Hank Sheffer, had sold out of his book, “The Queen and Her Court,” which is the true story of the Apacheland Movie Ranch. On the museum patio Apacheland Days featured Artist, Sandy Eastman, displayed her western paintings of the “Cowboys & Indians.”

A hungry crowd enjoyed authentic Indian Fry Bread and Tacos made by Cafe Laguna, serving the largest crowd the museum ever had.

Among the interesting exhibits to see at the Superstition Mountain Museum in Apache Junction, AZ is the famous Apacheland Barn which stands out as the largest exhibit.

The Elvis Presley Memorial Chapel and Apacheland Barn are permanent exhibit[s] holding the 50 year movie-making history as westerns provided the world a window to the southwest and without the fear of a speeding bullet from an outlaw gunman.

The only varmint was a harmless set of ‘rabbit ears’ antenna to be turned for a clear broadcast.

Stars like Ronald Reagan, Dale Robertson and Audie Murphy stepped into a movie universe at the Apacheland movie set.

 Liz Stevens, (left) and
girls from San Carlos
Intermediate School

After a fire destroyed most of the Kings Ranch Road/Gold Canyon’s old west movie set in 2004, the Apacheland Barn was dismantled along with the Elvis Presley Memorial Chapel (built for film Charro) and relocated to Apache Trail at the Superstition Mountain Museum location for the annual Apacheland Days celebration.  

What saved the old-west day was the generous donation of the movie barn and Elvis chapel to the museum by Ed & Sue Birmingham and along with the help of volunteers after the 2004 fire, the Superstition Mountain Musuem managed to keep Apacheland on “life-support.” With the recent success of the Apacheland Days celebration of 3,500 attendees, Apacheland has a heart-beat and a renewed life! In January 2011, the Superstition Mountain Museum will hold its 2nd annual Apacheland Days celebration – thanks to the San Carlos Apache Tribe, White Mountain Apaches, Eva Tulene Watt, and Apacheland Movie fans!


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