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From the office of President Delbert Ray, Sr.

What was your biggest takeaway from your trip to Washington, D.C., for President Donald Trump’s inauguration?

President Delbert Ray, Sr.: That tribal leadership has been proactive under National Congress of American Indians President [Brian] Cladoosby’s leadership to come to the table to influence some key transitional issues affecting tribal nations. A few issues include the Indian healthcare legislation that was part of the Affordable Care Act, which is to be repealed by this new administration. Another is the issue of taxes imposed by the states; Salt River is determined to have a portion of that returned to the Community. We talked to our state legislators and asked them to look at that in light of what is being proposed in D.C. on that issue. We also talked about housing issues and veterans’ issues.

What message do you hope you got across to the many elected officials with whom you spoke?

President Ray, Sr.: That this congress would oppose off-reservation gaming and enact legislation that will preserve and benefit tribal nations in the use and development of their homelands.

It’s not only here, but also Michigan, California—[there is] a lot of reservation-hopping for gaming purposes. We asked the [Congressional representatives] to have the National Indian Gaming Association enforce the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act rule of the 50-mile limit [in cases] where you have tribes going 150 miles, as is the case of [the] Glendale [casino].

Do you have any other important trips or meetings lined up in the coming weeks that could benefit the Community?

President Ray, Sr.: On February 17, myself, Vice-President Harvier and Councilman Largo, along with representatives from 12 other tribes, will be meeting with Arizona Governor [Doug] Ducey for a second time to further define matters to be considered in the Gaming Compact Amendment discussions.

The key component for that is the limitation on Glendale, but it will also give us the opportunity for expanded gaming, maybe lifting the ceiling on the number of gaming machines. It’s open for discussion and each tribe will have different needs, but that’s the importance of communications.

The week of February 13, Vice-President Harvier and SRPMIC Council Members Largo, Dallas and Kashoya will be in Washington, D.C., for the winter NCAI session, where they will sit through presentations by numerous legislators on the efforts addressing issues affecting tribal nations.

I’m continuing to meet with Valley mayors to maintain support. I continue to meet with Community members on different issues.

The Community’s newest enterprise, the Beeline Highway Pit Stop, is opening in February near McDowell Road. What’s the long-term goal for that area of the Community?

President Ray, Sr.: The effort is to maintain a revenue source and employment opportunity for the Community. Right now we are putting it (the Beeline Highway Pit Stop) on a trial basis as far as management and all those things, but they really responded to some of the wishes of the Community.

It is a hot spot for various events, like the Ironman Triathlon, so it’s a prime location.

You mentioned instituting a Circle of Elders. Can you elaborate on a timeline and how a Circle of Elders will benefit the Community?

President Ray, Sr.: The Circle of Elders was part of my platform. My theme was “By the People, for the People.”

The Barona Tribe [Barona Band of Mission Indians] has a Circle of Elders to mentor the tribe and help maintain their cultural identity. I see a lot of value in this because people are searching for identity. [Forming the SRPMIC Circle of Elders] has to take a little bit of time; I’m reaching out now.

For me, I’m 68 years old, I’ve lived here all my life and I know who we are as O’odham. Some [Community traditions] that I’ve seen aren’t actually ours; they are borrowed. But rather than snatching that hope from people, I’ve said, “It’s good, let’s look at it, but let’s return eventually back to who we are as O’odham.” For the Circle of Elders, that’s the type of discussion.


Open-Door Policy

President Ray and Vice-President Harvier continue to have an open-door policy for Community members to discuss their concerns or share their ideas. Please call Elyse Lewis at (480) 362-7465 to set up an appointment to meet with the president or vice-president to address any issues you may have.

Executive Office Open to Questions

If you have questions that you would like answered in the monthly President/Vice-President Interview in Au-Authm Action News, you may submit them to Dodie Manuel at Au-Authm Action News, 10005 E. Osborn Rd., Scottsdale, AZ 85256. Fax (480) 362-5592, e-mail, or phone (480) 362-7731.