Q&A With the SRPMIC President
What does Community Day mean to you, and what type of message do you hope to deliver to the Community?
June 14, 2017, will mark 138 years since the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community has been in existence. In those many years, many changes have occurred, such as changes in leadership and our enrollment numbers. Some changes were good, and some became great challenges. Nonetheless, the evidence of a strong Community is the high number of students we have in our schools and the numbers that have graduated these past years and are planning for employment, vocational training or furthering their education through college. Other evidence is the number of new facilities that recently opened or are ready to, such as the Lehi gathering grounds, the Family Advocacy Center, the Justice Center and the Way of Life [Facility]. In the business world, we see the OdySea [Aquarium], Butterfly Wonderland, Dolphinaris (Arizona) and the auto mall. All these bring financial [revenue], not only to landowners, but to the general population through taxes and services. In a nutshell, that’s what Salt River is all about. We’re strong.
Earlier this year, a grassroots group of Community members expressed concern about non-tribal members trespassing on and around several areas of Onk Akimel lands. Was this issue ever resolved?
Throughout the years, there are always hot issues that are brought to Council’s attention. Council has always deliberated on all matters and given a meaningful response. One such issue is that Community members, through a spokesperson, asked that the Council address the issue of non-tribal members trespassing in the Red Mountain and Salt River areas. After several weeks of review, the Salt River Police Department Rangers officers were increased from two to six in order to increase patrols on our borders. A report submitted for the Memorial Day Weekend (more info here) stated that 109 vehicles entered the preserve, and 26 vehicles were turned away because the occupants were not Community members. The Rangers have established communication with the spokesperson of the concerned Community members; this issue was very positive and ended on a positive note.
Why did Council decide to cancel the annual California Community member meeting? How do you plan to reach out to the members living in California?
Due to increased Council political activity, in order to be proactive on President Trump’s proposed cuts and policy changes, our annual trip to meet Community members in California was canceled for this year. All of this was communicated to the membership in a letter mailed to each household dated April 19, 2017. This time period gives Council and staff an opportunity to review other options for next May. Be reminded that Administration, Council and staff are available to assist Community members, whether they are local or living out of state. So there are open communications.
Over the past few months, you have met with various tribes on their elders groups, including the Gila River Indian Community and the Barona Band of Mission Indians Circle of Elders. Did these meetings help you develop your vision for an elders group here in the Community?
It’s a work in progress because you have different factions that say, “This is the way,” and then (other) people say, “No, this is the way.” I’m just in the middle trying to draw people together to talk about what those differences may be. For example, on May 5, I met with the local [seniors]. I picked a dozen of who I thought would bring the most value to the conversation. One I know in particular was 91 years old, and the others were 70 and older. The conversation was very good. The other part of this is that you have the younger faction that says, “No, this is the way.” I’m in the middle. I’m going to be 70 next year, and I grew up here and I know what the way is, but are you willing to sit down with the elders to listen, to see what the way is as they understand it.
On May 5, we brought everyone together. The word is Him-Dag (the way of life); that’s what people go to. People place value on that and say we are not following our Him-Dag. People say, What is the Him-Dag? We even had that word at our Council retreat. Better yet, what is an elder?
The bottom line is what I’m trying to do is, okay, let’s get an understanding what Him-Dag is. But No. 1, we need to be accepting; we don’t ridicule.
This is a work in progress. I’m not there yet, but I really appreciate the people who have come to the table.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone (480) 362-7731.