On Saturday, December 20, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community held its Inauguration Ceremony at the Talking Stick Resort Salt River Ballroom. The day marked a time period (on the calendar stick) that reflected the dawning of a new leader, President Delbert Ray Sr.; the reappointment of Vice-President Martin Harvier, Council Member Thomas Largo and Chief Judge Ryan Andrews; and the installation of new Council Member David Antone, new Council Member Michael Dallas Sr., and new Council Member Jenelle Howard.
A large crowd composed of Community members, friends, families and numerous invited tribal, state, county and city elected officials gathered to witness the inauguration. As the program began, the newly elected officials took the stage, accompanied by their spouses and family members. The master of ceremonies, E. Pacer Reina, a SRPMIC community member, directed the agenda, which included many elements reflective of the Community.
The event began with the traditional posting of the colors by the Salt River High School JROTC, followed by the singing of the national anthem in the O’odham language, which was performed by the Akimel O’odham Ne’edum group. Blending U.S. protocols and the traditional language, the presentation of the national anthem represented the mix of traditional and contemporary components that were exhibited throughout the day.
The welcome address was given by Kaily Toney, president of the Young River People’s Council.
“Today is a very special day for Salt River, because today all of you will witness the beginning of new leadership,” said Toney. “The leaders being sworn in will be making a commitment to continue the growth and development of our government, enterprises and our people. As we move forward, we must remember our past—remember the previous leaders and their efforts, their triumphs, and their compassion for the people.
“As a youth council leader, I have been able to observe Tribal Council as they lead our Community. Tribal Council leaders have said that the youth are the future. They would like the youth to make leadership a goal for themselves as well as for the Community. The youth can accomplish this with our Council’s leadership as they encourage, support and demonstrate their care for us, the Community.”
The program included musical performances by the SRPMIC Employee Choir, which sang “America the Beautiful,” “My Country ’Tis of Thee” and “Joy to the World.” An inspiring and heartfelt rendition of the song “People Need the Lord” was performed by Pastor Cheri Sampson of Salt River Indian Assembly of God.
Prior to administering of the oath of office to the newly elected officials, significant speeches were offered by outgoing SRPMIC President Diane Enos and U.S. Congressman Trent Franks (R-District 8).
President Enos offered some words of encouragement, an insightful perspective on governing as the outgoing leader of the Community, and a loud call for all Community members and staff to support the newly elected president, Delbert Ray Sr. President Enos stated in a heartfelt tone, “It has been an honor to serve as your president for the past eight years … I am happy, because transition is a part of the internal force that our Creator has set in motion.”
Throughout her speech, she reflected on her perspective as a tribal leader and her connection to the Community. “We have always acknowledged our Creator … let there be no mistake that Salt River is a spiritual nation [and] that we embrace our Creator in many different ways, denominations, traditions and other ways to show solidarity and strength and teach our children.”
Enos offered the following words to the incoming leadership: “You never know what is coming down the road, but we must do whatever we can to protect our sovereignty, because without our sovereignty we would not have what you are experiencing today. We would not have a government here, [and] we would not have the authority to live the way we determine our lives to be.
“Four years ago, I gave my heart to you, the people of Salt River … eight years ago, I gave my heart to you, the people of Salt River … 24 years ago, I gave my heart to you. You still have my heart, and you always will …. I want to say thank you,” said Enos.
Congressman Trent Franks provided sincere words of gratitude to President Enos for the working relationship they have established over the years. Franks said that he hopes he and the tribe will continue to work together to keep their promises to each other. The bottom line is if we as people forget to care about each other, respect each other and keep our word and promise to each other, it can defect everything else we do.”
Congressman Franks elaborated, “Delbert Ray is a friend of mine … I think he is going to make a magnificent president! I have known him and his wife for many years …. Let me express congratulations to all, the vice-president, the chief judge, and the other Council members here. I want to express tremendous congratulations to all of you ….” Franks went on, “I truly believe Delbert Ray understands [what government is] … I truly believe he is going to do everything he can to represent this Community and represent [the SRPMIC] in that fashion.”
Then, each official, using a Bible or holy book of his or her choice, was sworn in to mark the beginning of the new term in office. Chief Judge Andrews, accompanied by his grandmother, Selma Andrews, was sworn in by Jan Morris, associate judge for the Salt River Appellate Court.
Thereafter, Chief Judge Andrews administered the oath to the Council members: David Antone, accompanied by his wife, Patricia; Michael Dallas Sr., accompanied by his pastor, Edward Galindo, and his wife; Jenelle Howard, accompanied by her daughter, Brie; and Thomas Largo, accompanied by his wife, Mayda. He then administered the oath to Vice-President Martin Harvier, who was accompanied by his wife, Toni, and then to President Delbert Ray Sr., accompanied by his wife, June.
After he was sworn in, SRPMIC President-Elect Delbert Ray Sr. gave his Presidential Message. Here are some of the key points:
“If you know me, [you know that] I like to connect with people right away. I, like Diane Enos, give you my heart, but I also want to give you my ears … Ma:ñam ka: (I do hear you). This was the whole foundation of my campaign. People know me….I am really honored to stand before you. I am so honored, all that was said before, about how God works … we are trusting Him.”
President-Elect Ray exhibited true O’odham emotion when he formally offered a “Welcome” to everyone present: his Hahajuñĭ (his relatives), his friends and others. He became emotional, as it appeared he felt the enormity of the moment.
“Man is not free unless government is limited,” a quote by former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, is a philosophy that President Ray believes. He spoke for more than 20 minutes about his philosophy on government and goals for the Community, emphasizing core messages such as that he “[holds] ‘the people’ as the focal center point … government is here for the people.” He stated that as an elder he is reminded of the phrase, “(Together, we will do this) T’vem, am bo ju.” Throughout his speech, he inserted O’odham humor to help make a point or soften a point.
In closing, President-Elect Ray added, “The kind of leadership we seek lies within each of us. We members are Onk Akimel (Salt River). For the next four years, expect to be invited to the decision-making table.” (See page 3 for a complete transcript of President-Elect Ray’s speech.)
The inauguration also featured a special presentation by the Tsuu T’ina Nation from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, which has established a nation-to-nation relationship with the SRPMIC. The nations share similarities in the types of issues they face and how they deal with them, and in recent years the two governments have built a strong relationship. The Tsuu T’ina Nation offered a Pipe Prayer and presented President-Elect Ray with a Chief’s jacket. They also performed a Chief Honor Song out of respect for SRPMIC’s new leader.
At the closing of the formal program, Paul Smith Sr. was honored to provide the benediction, which led to the retrieval of the colors by the Salt River JROTC.
Afterward, a dinner was provided by Talking Stick Resort for all in attendance. The newly elected officials formed a receiving line at the front of the stage, which allowed people to offer their congratulations and well wishes to each official. During this time, traditional entertainment was performed by the Bird Singing and Dancing by the River group.
In retrospect, the event opened with classical renditions by world-renowned Yaqui musician Gabriel Ayala and his trio in the prelude to the inauguration, and the evening ended with elected officials, family, friends and guests listening and dancing to the music of the Tohono O’odham band Gertie Lopez and the T.O. Boyz. In between, the program was filled with inspiring, insightful and notable presentations, all of which paid tribute to the newly elected leadership of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.