It was a brisk morning on the grounds of the Arizona Capitol as hundreds of people, mostly from Arizona’s tribal communities, huddled around warming stations, sipped coffee and ate frybread at the 29th Annual Indian Nations & Tribes Legislative Day on January 10.
According to the Arizona Governor’s Office on Tribal Relations, which hosted the event, Indian Nations & Tribes Legislative Day celebrates the rich culture and history of Arizona’s tribes and addresses issues of mutual interest between tribes, state agencies and community members.
The event began with a resource fair outside the Capitol, where state agencies and local businesses handed out information. One of the booths at the fair was the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s Foster Care Program. Staff handed out pamphlets detailing the services provided, as well as stickers with their logo on it.
Members of the Young River People’s Council (YRPC), the youth council for the SRPMIC, were also present at the event.
“We’re here to shadow Council leaders and listen in on other tribal leaders’ issues they have in Indian Country,” said YRPC Vice-President Roman Judge.
Judge hoped to learn from the youth workshop “Lighting the Fire: Bringing Light to Your Community Through Advocacy,” presented by United Indian Tribal Youth (UNITY, Inc.) later in the day in one of the Senate caucus rooms.
People lined up outside the Arizona House of Representatives, which hosted a joint protocol session from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Once inside, they packed the seats above the House floor.
The Chi’Chino Spirit O’odham Singing Group opened the session with a traditional song before American Legion Post #114 Bushmasters, from the SRPMIC, presented the colors on the House floor.
Miss Indian Arizona Laney Lupe (White Mountain Apache) led the Pledge of Allegiance, and Vice-President Paul Russell from the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation gave the invocation.
After opening remarks by Speaker of the House Ben Toma and Senate President Warren Petersen, SRPMIC President Martin Harvier, Hualapai Tribe Chairwoman Sherry Parker and Ak-Chin Indian Community Chairman Robert Miguel gave their tribal nations addresses, sharing their communities’ perspectives on important tribal issues.
“Today is a new beginning for tribal nations to engage the State of Arizona’s legislature on common issues we share and to seek reasonable solutions to have a mutually beneficial outcome,” Harvier said in his address. “The core of this effort is the phrase ‘A rising tide lifts all boats’—that is to say all of us benefit from each other’s successes.”
Harvier also recognized the members of the Young River People’s Council during his speech and thanked them for being there.
After the session was over, attendees ate lunch on the House Lawn, sponsored by the Arizona Indian Gaming Association, while the South Image Waila Band from the Tohono O’odham Nation performed.
In the afternoon, breakout sessions with panels of representatives from Arizona state agencies took place in the House of Representatives hearing rooms, giving an opportunity for people to meet leadership from a variety of state agencies and hear about the work they do with tribal communities.