Tribal leaders gathered at an annual event to celebrate the history of Indigenous peoples in Arizona. The Indian Nations & Tribes Legislative Day was held at the Arizona Senate building on January 11.
The day consists of a joint-protocol session hosted by the Arizona Senate, an information fair on the Senate lawn, and presentations in the afternoon segment of the program. According to a press release by the Arizona Governor’s Office on Tribal Relations, the event is meant to “Celebrate the culture and history of Arizona’s Tribes and Nations and also address issues of mutual interest.”
“[This] Legislative Day was different from in the past, and I really think it comes from Governor [Katie] Hobbs’ commitment to working with the tribes,” said Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community President Martin Harvier, who attended the event. “I think there’s some excitement in the air [about] the [new state] leadership and the willingness to recognize tribes, their sovereignty and the issues we face.”
One of those mutual interests is Arizona’s water supply and the severe shortage all communities face. “We need to ensure that our state has a sustainable water supply for future generations. We cherish our ongoing collaboration with our tribal communities to develop viable solutions,” said Senate President Warren Petersen.
Petersen said the need for access to high-speed internet, the fentanyl crisis in America, and the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous people are all issues that the Arizona Legislature will continue to address alongside tribal communities.
About supporting investigations into the MMIP issue, Petersen said, “The objective is to undertake an extensive investigation to identify how [this] state might minimize and eliminate violence against Indigenous women and girls and to fund and get investigations into missing and murdered Indigenous people.”
Speaker of the House Ben Toma lauded the contributions of tribal communities to the state of Arizona, including their status as a driving force in the state’s economy. “As the Speaker of the House, thank you all for being here today to participate in the 28th Annual Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day.”
He said, “Today provides a valuable opportunity for us to honor and celebrate the impact that tribes have in Arizona, as they are an important partner to the state of Arizona and contribute greatly to this success of our economy.”
“Reservation land accounts for one-third of the state’s land. Arizona tribes control one-third of Arizona’s surface waters. We are the third-largest employer in Arizona, although we have only 5% of the state. Tribal populations contribute billions of dollars to the state’s economy,” said San Carlos Apache Tribe Chairman Terry Rambler.
Looking toward the near future, Rambler said it is critical that states and tribes “Work more closely as partners on the issues we all face today; the most crucial issue we face is water. Our future relies on the decisions we make now about our most precious resource.”
Another tribal leader who spoke at the event was Yavapai-Apache Nation Chairwoman Tanya Lewis, who talked about the need to preserve tribal lands, uphold civil rights and recognize tribes’ economic impact on the state. Hopi Tribal Chairman Timothy Nuvangyaoma provided remarks on how tribes have endured through the COVID-19 pandemic and persevere today.
“We are not out of this pandemic. And this virus may not go away. We are in a much better place today, which gives us this opportunity to be here with one another. We continue to remind our Community members to stay vigilant. Look out for one another and look out after yourselves,” said Nuvangyaoma.
Harvier said, “It’s really good just to see all the tribal leaders here mingling with their representatives from their part of the state as we continue to be heard and recognized by the State of Arizona as an important partner in all things that concern every one of us.”