|A descendant of Mexican people on her father's side of the family and Apaches on her mother's side, Mary Riley strived to get along with people from all ethnic groups. She grew up on the family ranch, learning to care for farm animals and to keep the ranch accounts. After growing up on a ranch, Mary Riley raised cattle as an adult. Although she did not have a lot of formal schooling, she later encouraged all of her children and descendents to become educated.
On the White Mountain Apache Tribal Council, Mary Riley advocated for creation of the Fort Apache Timber Company which is wholly owned and operated by the tribe. Mary V. Riley was proud that the tribe developed this company without government assistance and paid back the loans associated with it. She also worked to expand recreational opportunities on the reservation, including the Sunrise Ski Area which has become one of the busiest ski resorts in Arizona.
The White Mountain Apache Tribe recognized her as an independent woman who helped her people to retain traditional values as they worked to expand economic opportunities on the reservation.
Later in life, Mary Riley donated land to build Seven Mile Elementary School in the Whiteriver Unified School District. She believed that education would allow her Apache people to move into the future while preserving their tribal traditions. The Mary Velasquez Riley Seven Mile School holds classrooms for 650 students.
Learn more about Mary V. Riley at the "Nohwike' Bagowa" (House of Our Footprints) in the Apache Cultural Center & Museum. This cultural center is located at Fort Apache, five miles south of Whiteriver.
Mary Velasquez Riley - Courtesy of Apache Cultural Center and Museum
"Nohwike' Bagowa" (House of Our Footprints) Apache Cultural Center & Museum, Fort Apache - Courtesy of Apache Cultural Center and Museum