“Telling the Stories of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community”

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“Telling the Stories of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community”

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December 20, 2023

President Makil Receives Phoenix Indian Center Lifetime Achievement Award


For the last 40 years, the Phoenix Indian Center has hosted its annual Arizona American Indian Excellence in Leadership Awards. The event began as a potluck luncheon years ago and has since grown into a gala that welcomes current and former tribal leaders, tribal royalty and many esteemed allies of Indian Country. The awards were first known as the Native American Recognition Days Awards (or NARDs).

The awards celebrate and honor the achievements of American Indians in the state of Arizona. Throughout the years, the awards have been presented to distinguished representatives who showcase proven leadership in their communities, effect positive change in their professions, work to be of long-standing service to their lands, and much more.

Not limited to tribal elected officials, the awards also have recognized and continue to recognize Indigenous high school and college students who are assets to their tribal communities back home. 

The 2023 Arizona American Indian Excellence in Leadership Awards ceremony was held on November 30 at the Steele Auditorium at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. This year, Ivan Makil, former Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community leader and founder of Generation Seven Strategic Partners, received the Kent C. Ware Lifetime Achievement Award. 

President Makil Receives Phoenix Indian Center Lifetime Achievement Award
Former President of SRPMIC Ivan Mali was awarded the Kent C. Ware award as well as a blanket from members of the Phoenix Indian Center.

Makil was elected president of the SRPMIC for three consecutive terms beginning in 1990. Under his administration, the Community introduced major new enterprises such as Saddleback Communications, Casino Arizona, the Talking Stick Golf Course and Chaparral Business Park. In addition to his many successes, Makil also chaired the effort to pass Proposition 202 during the year 2000, a ballot proposition that allowed for Indian gaming to continue in the state of Arizona. 

“Thank you. I am deeply honored,” Makil said during his acceptance speech. He shared a story about how his grandfather taught Makil as a youngster to ask someone else first how they feel, and then speak. “The word is sap kaij (What’s up/What did you say/think?). It has served me well. Listening gave me an opportunity to understand, appreciate, and sometimes disagree with who I was speaking with—or, more importantly, who was speaking to me,” he said. 

The packed auditorium listened to Makil talk about those who have helped him the most. “This recognition goes to my family, my parents, my grandparents, my children, my brothers, my sisters, the people of Salt River, the Elders, and the people of Salt River who raised me, for giving me a foundation upon which to live my life and [teaching me] how to use that foundation of values to make decisions about what was important to our people,” he said. 

Makil’s words remind all of us about our own talents and potential legacies. “The Creator has given us a unique opportunity to fulfill that purpose that we were born here for. Sometimes that purpose is difficult to find and understand, but it’s important to how we live our lives and continue to give to our families and community,” he said.

Makil finished his speech by acknowledging how Native and non-Native individuals have an innate understanding of commitment to our families, communities, tribes and the country. 

“Whenever I have the opportunity, I always say, ‘The greatest measure of a successful community is the health of its people,’” he said. “I’m not just talking about physical and mental health. I’m talking about the economic, social, cultural and spiritual health. All of those things that we as Native people have grown up with and known innately since we were children. Thank you to all of you who support Native communities,” he said. 

At the conclusion of his speech, Makil received a standing ovation that lasted quite a few minutes. He was presented with the Kent C. Ware Lifetime Achievement Award plaque as well as a commemorative blanket while he posed for photos with members of the Phoenix Indian Center.