Rudy Buchanan, a longtime employee of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Social Services Department, was recognized with the Marcus “Mark” Harrison, Jr. Leadership Award on Thursday, March 27, during the 10th annual American Indian Disability Summit luncheon. Buchanan, along with members of his staff and volunteers, enjoyed a banquet-style lunch and awards presentation that was part of the two-day American Indian Disability Summit conference held at the Phoenix Airport Marriott.
“We started the Marcus Harrison, Jr. Leadership Award acknowledging others working [in] advocacy for tribal members with disabilities,” said presenter Jim Warne as he announced the award winner. “That’s what we’re all here for is that dedication and leadership and advocacy that Mark did for all of us. [The award recipient] has been evaluated and judged on the following criteria: the nominee is a tribal member or a person who works or advocates for Indian people with disabilities, shows documentation of community involvement in disabilities-services areas, and [has worked with those with] disabilities in their community. [We also evaluate] how the nominee has expressed themselves as a community leader and what impact or outcome the community had as a result of their guidance.”
Buchanan, social worker I with the SRPMIC Youth Services Department, received the first annual Caring for Salt River Award in 2012 for his contributions to improve the quality of life in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
Buchanan has been employed with the SRPMIC for 10 years. He runs the VAII Clubhouse, a multipurpose center for youth. Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano appointed Buchanan to serve on the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners. He was also appointed to serve on the board of commissioners of the Housing Authority of Maricopa County. “Buchanan demonstrates his commitment to Indian Country and people with disabilities by the work he does, and we want to honor him today,” said Warne.
Buchanan was given a plaque and a Pendleton blanket. During his thank-you speech, he invited his fellow staff and volunteers from Salt River to come up to the stage for recognition as well.
“I want to thank everyone … that voted for [me]; however, I would like the people from Salt River [who are] here to come up, [the] staff along with volunteer workers—these are the folks who have helped me along the way with A.A. programs, coalitions [and] cultural programs,” said Buchanan. “These are the folks that deserve a part of this as well. These are Community members from Salt River. I plan to leave Salt River next year. We have gotten people positions that are from there and they will continue [working] on the programs that we started.”
Buchanan also recognized a friend named Tino from the Gila River Indian Community, someone Buchanan is mentoring and guiding to start programs for people with disabilities in that community.
Buchanan and the staff of the SRPMIC Social Services Department have provided the Community and other Native American communities with a disabilities conference for the past six years. He credits this recognition to that, along with programs in the Community that are geared toward helping those with disabilities.
“I was humble. It was surprising to me that they had selected me,” said Buchanan.
As Buchanan retires, he wants to be sure that the disabilities programs and services he helped start on the Community will continue. He has made it a goal to teach others from the Community about all the different services that are available to people with disabilities and how to help people of the Community access and use these services.