|Date submitted: October 28, 2011|
|Gift: General Gift|
|Location on plaza map: A2|
|Honored on the Native American Women's Arch by the Yavapai-Apache Nation.|
Vera Brown Starr was born in 1924 to Sam and Mary Brown, and had two siblings, Tom Brown and Rachel Brown Hood. Vera's father worked in the Clarkdale and Clemenceau smelters and in the Jerome mines. They didn’t use respirators at the time, just a wet handkerchief tied over their faces. He died of silicosis. Vera’s mother received a pension of $55 a month for about a year.
Although her mother had worked her entire life, when she became eligible for social security she was denied benefits for not contributing to the program while employed. Times were hard and, practically starving, Vera went to work at the age of 13.
Vera went to public school in Clarkdale. Classes were segregated, morning for Phelps-Dodge workers and high society, afternoons for Mexicans and Indians. Somehow Vera was placed in the morning classes. Although she didn’t know English, she was able to learn the curriculum and later went on to an Indian boarding school in Valentine, Arizona, then to the Indian High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Despite earning a scholarship to the University of New Mexico, Vera chose to return to Clarkdale to care for her mother.
Vera married Antonia Moreno and had two children. Mr. Moreno died in 1968 and she married Henry Starr.
In 1967, Vera decided to run for Tribal Council. While her mother advocated against her running for Tribal Council, she was elected Tribal Chairwoman in 1975, the first woman Chairman representing the Yavapai-Apache Nation. She was dedicated to improving the lives of her People, advocating for improved housing on the reservations and the protection of Indian water rights. Vera was a member of the North American Indian Women’s Association (NAIWA), promoting the general well being of Indian people.
“For some reason, I was always Vera’s favorite. I guess it was because while other girls were drinking and doing bad things, I stayed in school and never drank. Vera put me to work while I was still in school. She would hire me to do secretarial and accounting work under the Indian Action Program. After I finished school, Vera continued to assist me, hiring me as a bookkeeper for the Nation. With Vera’s assistance, I became the first Miss Yavapai-Apache Nation. She was my mentor. I learned a lot from her. I always looked up to her as Chairwoman of the Nation and she was always there for me.” - Roberta Quail, Yavapai-Apache Nation Tribal Member