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Arizona Hosts 22nd Annual Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day

Dione Dallas, Nalani Lopez, both of the Young River People's Council, SRPMIC President Delbert Ray, Sr., State Representative Athena Salman, State Senator Juan Mendez, State Representative Isela Blanca, Mikah Carlos, Sommer Lopez and SRPMIC Vice-President Martin Harvier.

Tribal leaders and supporters from across Arizona packed parts of the State Capitol in Phoenix on January 11 for the Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day. The annual event is presented by the Arizona Governor’s Office on Tribal Relations (formerly known as the Commission of Indian Affairs), in partnership with the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona and the Arizona Indian Gaming Association.

Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community President Delbert Ray, Sr., Vice-President Martin Harvier and Council member Thomas Largo, along with members of the Young River People’s Council, represented the Community at the popular event, now in its 22nd year.

The event attracted elected leaders, including Arizona Senate President Steven Yarbrough and Speaker of the House J.D. Mesnard, who delivered brief opening remarks in the joint protocol session held in the senate chambers.

“I know many of you came long distances to spend the day here, and I appreciate that,” Yarbrough said. “I am also pleased to see many senators and representatives here at our joint protocol session. I’m sure they will want to hear your questions and concerns as we continue to build relationships with the legislature and your community.”

White Mountain Apache Tribe Chairman Ronnie Lupe, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation President Bernadine Burnette and Kaibab Band of Paiutes Chairman Roland Maldonado each delivered a State of Tribal Nations address. All three received a standing ovation.

“Today is an important day to us, and we appreciate all the legislators who have joined us here,” Burnette said. “Talking creates understanding, and understanding is the first step towards working together. There are many issues where we have worked together on a government-to-government basis in the past. When we achieve together, that creates trust, and trust is the foundation in moving forward.”

The chamber was standing room only with some Arizona senators and representatives, but tribal leaders filled most of the floor seats.

State Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai (Navajo), who was sworn into office in January, also addressed the audience briefly from her designated floor seat. Her district covers part of the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona. Peshlakai acknowledged the tribal leaders and the many Native Americans in attendance.

“We are all family,” she said. “Thank you for your leadership; thank you for your community service. You are the ones that know what we need, so please see your legislator.”

Sen. Juan Mendez, who sat beside President Ray during the session, was also in attendance. He represents Arizona Legislative District 26, which includes the Community. District 26 representatives Isela Blanc and Athena Salman were also present. The three elected state officials and the SRPMIC delegation met for a photo.

After the hour-long session, lunch was served on the senate lawn, followed by two informational sessions: a Tribal Food Summit on Indigenous food, horticulture and livestock; and the Native Youth Know (NYK) Small Business and Entrepreneurship Workshop for students in grades 7 to 12. About 40 businesses and organizations were represented in the exhibitor booths.

For more information on Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day or the Governor’s Office on Tribal Relations, visit

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