The current Veterans Memorial Park in Sacaton, Arizona appears to have begun with the construction in 1927 of a memorial monument to WWI veteran, Mathew B. Juan. It is currently unknown if there were earlier memorial monuments elsewhere on the reservation honoring those Pima and Maricopa Indians who served in the U.S. Military since the 1860s.
The Mathew B. Juan Memorial Monument
Mathew B. Juan, a Pima Indian who enlisted under the name Mathew B. Rivers, was the first American Indian and the first Arizonan to be killed in World War I on May 28th, 1918 at the Battle of Cantigny, France, the first American offensive operation of the war.
At the 1927 annual convention of the American Legion, Department of Arizona, a resolution was presented by delegates from the Fred A. Humphreys American Legion Post 8 of Casa Grande, Arizona for the erection of a lasting memorial to the memory of Mathew B. Juan.
Whereas: Mathew B. Juan who was enlisted as Mathew B. Rivers, Private No. 251576, in Company “K”, 28th Infantry, First Division, was the first Arizonan to be killed in action during the World War when he fell in the battle of Cantigny on May 28th, 1918, and was first buried where he fell, his body later being brought back to his native state, Arizona, where it now lies in an unmarked grave at Sacaton, Pinal County, on the Pima Indian reservation: now, therefore be it:
Resolved: By the American Legion, Department of Arizona, in convention assembled at Springerville, Arizona, this 25th day of June, 1927, that this department take such steps as are necessary to erect a suitable monument to the memory of Mathew B. Juan (Mathew B. Rivers) which will show the appreciation of his surviving comrades and other citizens of the State of Arizona of the supreme sacrifice paid by him: and it be further
Resolved: That the American Legion, Department of Arizona, appropriate $100.00 from any funds now available for the erection of a monument in the memory of Mathew B. Juan and that a committee of three be appointed to handle the matters in connection with this project.
On August 5th, 1927 an architectural sketch of the proposed monument was printed on the front page of the Casa Grande Dispatch newspaper. The monument design was by the Jones Monument Company of Tucson, Arizona. The caption states that the monument was to be erected in the Presbyterian church yard in Sacaton which is a few blocks to the east and is the current burial place of Mathew B. Juan. (see next page for sketch).