“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

SRPMIC Commemorates 82nd Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor


On December 7, the 82nd anniversary of the tragedy at Pearl Harbor, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community held a commemoration ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial Gardens in remembrance of all veterans and civilians who suffered and perished on that infamous day. 

Amanda White from the SRPMIC Veterans Office served as emcee for the commemoration ceremony. In her speech, she detailed the history of that fateful day. “One hundred eighty-eight U.S. aircraft were destroyed and all eight Navy battleships in port were damaged, with four of them sunk,” she stated. The California, the West Virginia, the Oklahoma and the Arizona were the battleships sunk on December 7, 1941. 

On December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt gave his famous “a day which will live in infamy” speech and declared war on the Empire of Japan. 

The ceremony continued with the official naval roll call of all distinguished guests in attendance: SRPMIC Vice-President Ricardo Leonard; Council members Michael Dallas Sr., Cheryl Doka, Wi-Bwa Grey, Deanna Scabby, Jacob Butler, David Antone and Micah Carlos; Community Manager Bryan Meyers and Assistant Community Managers Carla Banuelos, Lena Jackson, Doran Dalton and Dawn Sinoqui; former Miss Salt River Isabella Dockerty; former Miss Indian Arizona Sistine Lewis; and U.S. Navy veteran Derek Dalton.

SRPMIC Commemorates 82nd Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor
The flag breathing ceremony was performed to keep the promise made to the Pearl Harbor survivors.

In 2007, the SRPMIC received a U.S. flag from survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack; the flag had been flown over the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. During the formal presentation to the Community, the survivors made a request to the SRPMIC to open the flag every year (in a flag breathing ceremony) and remember all who gave their lives in service to their country. “That request has been honored by the SRPMIC every year since 2007 and continues today,” said White. 

Former Miss Salt River Isabella Dockerty then went up to the podium and sang the national anthem in O’odham. Miss Indian Arizona 2022 Sistine Lewis then led everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance. 

“We pray at this time for the families, friends and those who are still impacted, Lord,” said Councilmember Dallas during his opening remarks. “We pray for our veterans, those who laid their lives down, and their families. We pray to you and we thank you for today, Lord.” 

Leonard then said a few words. A recent inductee into the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame class of 2023, he welcomed everyone to the USS Arizona Memorial Gardens. He then detailed how the Community received part of the damaged USS Arizona to serve as the centerpiece of the USS Arizona Memorial Gardens. 

“We were stunned by what we received: the boathouse. The original memorial piece. Five feet by 7 feet by 12 feet.” This piece of the Arizona is the largest piece that has been awarded to a Native American community and is the largest piece on display in North America. “But it’s not ours; it belongs to everyone,” said Leonard. 

“This kind of special place doesn’t happen without leadership that supports it,” began Meyers. “I’ve had the privilege of serving this Community for many, many years. This Council and the one before it made a significant effort in recognizing all the men and women who have served in various capacities,” he added. A veteran of the Army, Meyers said that, regardless of military branch, “You’re all brothers and sisters to me.” 

Next came the flag breathing ceremony to keep the promise made to the Pearl Harbor survivors that the flag would be opened once a year. The flag was presented to all four directions and a 21-gun salute was performed by the San Carlos Apache Veterans Association, after which David Bonczkiewicz performed ”taps.”  

Navy veteran Derek Dalton then laid the Presidential wreath. As a gesture of honor and respect, attendees and distinguished guests were asked to remain silent and standing as Dalton hung the wreath. 

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Leonard thanked all the veterans, their families and loved ones. 

“I ask that we never forget the USS Arizona and all those who lost their lives [throughout World War II]. But not just them—World War I, Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan—all of the places where we lost lives. Creator, war is a destructive thing. Many lost lives. I ask that you help ease their hearts today. Help them remember their laughter. All my brothers and sisters, rest in peace. Creator, help them sleep peacefully, until it’s our turn,” he finished.