Social justice advocate and Gila River Indian Community elder Sylvia Porter McCabe joined her husband James L. McCabe in the meeting in the sky on April 15, 2021; she succumbed to complications from diabetes on April 15, 2021. 

Sylvia was born March 4, 1939 in an adobe house in the village of Stothonic to Ethel Porter, daughter of Narcissus Porter and Eliza Juan Porter; her father was Lyman Ray Nelson, son of Thomas Nelson Sr. and Mary Nelson. She had fond memories of life with her sisters, Ruthie Cole and Sandy Cawker, and their cousins on their grandparents farm where she learned to fluently speak her native language. 

After her grandmother Eliza died, Sylvia and her sisters moved to Phoenix. Initially facing housing discrimination, her family was welcomed to a neighborhood near Carl Hayden High School where she made life-long friends, including her dear friend Linda. She graduated from Carl Hayden in 1959.

In her 20's, Sylvia was a single mother who worked multiple jobs while attending Phoenix College. Soon she discovered her passion for helping others, particularly seniors, children and the neediest. As a community organizer for the Sacaton Model Cities Program she helped organize and empower tribal districts and their members; she met her friends Sally and Georgette who shared her interest in helping their community. Later, she was director of the Phoenix Urban Indian Center. She was also a frequent speaker on the Panel of American Women which brought together women of diverse backgrounds to share their experiences in the interest of improving greater understanding. 

In1975, Sylvia married Jim and began managing a lively household filled with her three children and four of Jim's children. In the 1980's, they moved their family to Gallup, New Mexico. Sylvia worked as a director of Toyei, which served adults with special needs on the Navajo Nation. She attended the University of New Mexico, commuting two hours each way with her daughter-in-law, Catherine Bennett, who left us too soon. In 1996, she was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology with minors in business and sociology. 

Returning to Gila River, Sylvia coordinated construction of housing and the District 6 Community Service Center. She also served on the Board of the Boys and Girls Club - Gila River, the local school board and the Gila River Elder Council. 

A breast cancer survivor, Sylvia was a caregiver for Jim and her grandchildren. She was a brilliant woman with a big laugh and an even bigger presence. 

She is survived by her three children, nine grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and many friends. 

Due to covid restrictions, the funeral are private. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Boys and Girls Clubs - Gila River by contacting


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Growing Up in Stothonic: Part VII

Shared by Danita Yocom on May 10, 2021
The May Day Celebration Continued

Jerry the Horse

Grandpa had a lazy horse named Jerry. Jerry didn't like to do anything which he considered work. His team mate, King, did all the wagon pulling; if Jerry hadn't been attached to the wagon he would not have done anything. When it was his turn to plow he would walk a few feet and stop. But Grandpa was as stubborn as Jerry and made him plow his share even if it took all day!

One of Jerry's favorite things to do was to escape from the fields and go run with the wild mustangs and pretend he was one of them.  This was a hard thing for him to do since he was a big horse with a regular horse nose and face, and on the chubby side, as well. Nevertheless, someone would report to Grandpa that they had seen Jerry running along the river with the wild horses.

The rodeo started around noon. There were the usual rodeo events such as calf roping,
steer wrestling, bull riding, and bronco riding. The sponsors of the rodeo rounded up wild horses to use in the rodeo for bronco riding event.  Since the round up sometimes included domestic farm horses the rodeo paid five silver dollars for the use of a farmer's horse.  

There had already been two or three events when we entered the rodeo arena. We climbed onto the bleachers with our tortillas in our hands and sat down to watch. 

In a small corral the mustangs were making noise and milling around in circles. And with them was Jerry jumping up and down  and banging on the fence with his hooves all the while making snorting horse sounds. We spotted him at once and yelled, "There's Jerry!" Grandpa had already seen Jerry and Identified him by his brand on Jerry's flank. Now Grandpa was waiting by the chutes waiting for Jerry to be ridden by one of the cowboys. 

The rodeo announcer called the first horse and rider. The horse was a mustang so he just had a number. They put Jerry in the next chute and he was kicking and banging the chute, the whites of his eyes showing. 

Now it was Jerry's turn. The announcer said the cowboy's name and said the horse making all the noise was Grandpa's horse. Everyone clapped and yelled. The cowboy got on Jerry and they opened the chute, Jerry made a giant leap into the air and when he came down he just lay down in the middle of the arena. There was a stunned silence and then everyone started to laugh and laugh. The cowboy was trying to pull his leg out from under Jerry but Jerry didn't move. Grandpa walked out there with his bridle in his hand He put the bridle on Jerry and slapped him on the rump and Jerry got up. The arena officials gave Grandpa one silver dollar for giving everyone a good laugh. Only Grandpa wasn't laughing. We stopped laughing, too.           

Growing Up in Stothonic: Part VI

Shared by Danita Yocom on May 10, 2021
Sylvia tells a story about the May Day celebration. 

Shaved Ice
Every spring the Mil-gahn at the Agency put on a big gathering. They called it May Day. It was held close the the highway that led off Highway 87 and went through Sacaton proper. It was very sandy with gravel in places so we had to wear our shoes which no one liked to do. 

For the celebration a rodeo arena was set up. People set up stands and sold different kinds of food. Smelling the cooking beans and tamales made us hungry. Our favorite was the Ice Shave stand. The Mil-gahn man solid ice in a white chest. When you ordered an ice shave he used a metal tool to scrape the block of ice and turn out ice crumbs.  He placed the ice crumbs into a paper cup and poured the syrup color of your choice over the ice: red, green, orange, or purple. Because we did not have the money for each of us to have our own shaved ice (about 40 cents), we had to share, two to a cup. Then we argued about which flavor to buy. Red was strawberry  and purple was grape -- we never chose green or orange. We ate the colored ice until it was melted and then we drank the sweet colored water.       

Growing Up in Stothonic: Part V

Shared by Danita Yocom on May 10, 2021
Sylvia remembers Beginners Class

The first school I attended was San Tan Day School. Flan went to school and I missed her. One day Flan said she thought I could go to school and be in the Beginners Class. Flan told my mother, who wrote a note.  I think I was four. The next day I went with Flan on the school bus and she took me to the Beginners classroom. I liked it until lunch time when they tried to make me eat something I did not want and tried to make me drink milk which had a greenish cast (which I later learned was powdered milk). After lunch they tried to make me take a nap. The other kids went to sleep so I went out to play. After 2 or 3 days of this the School said I wasn't old enough to be there which was a relief to me.