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23rd Annual Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day

The Arizona House of Representatives, Tribal leaders and guests listened to speakers speak of the importance of Arizona's relationship with Tribal communities during the 23rd Annual Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day on January 10 in Downtown Phoenix.

On January 10, the Arizona Governor’s Office on Tribal Relations hosted the 23rd Annual Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day at the Arizona State Capitol in downtown Phoenix.

Various tribal leaders from across Arizona were given the opportunity to remind the state of the importance of Arizona’s relationship with tribal communities.

Representatives attending from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community included President Delbert Ray, Sr., and Council member Tom Largo.

The 11 a.m. event started with a Joint Protocol Session in the Arizona House of Representatives Gallery. The Fort Mohave Indian Tribe Veterans Color Guard posted the colors, and Mariah Jordan Sharpe, Miss Indian Arizona 2017-18, led everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance. 

Former Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians Chairman Roland Maldonado gave the invocation, and Arizona Senate President Steven Yarbough and House of Representatives member Thomas Shope shared opening remarks.

“Whether it be the names of cities in our great state or landmarks with names of American heroes [like] Lori Piestewa and Ira Hayes, we have a very established history and a very tremendous amount of respect for the people that have come before us in this very land,” Shope said. “We recognize the economic impact the Indian nations and tribes have on the state of Arizona and appreciate the working relationship we have with the leaders of those tribes at the state capitol. Today is an opportunity to honor you and to honor our relationship as the State of Arizona and the tribal nations of this great state.”

The State of Tribal Nations Address featured Jane Russell-Winiecki, chairperson of the Yavapai-Apache Nation; Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Edward Manuel; and Russell Begaye, Navajo Nation President. Each speaker was given approximately 20 minutes to discuss major issues within their tribes and Indian Country and to remind state leaders of their duties and relationships with Native communities.

“I am honored to be asked to speak to you this morning,” said Russell-Winiecki. “This day is a day to celebrate the culture and history of the Native Americans in Arizona.”

Russell-Winiecki provided a brief history of the Yavapai-Apache Nation, shared a story about Coyote and Stinkbug, and also brought up some topics of interest to her tribe, such as respecting elders and their roles in Indian Country, water policies, education and jobs. She also provided some highlights from her Community and mentioned the Salt River Judicial Court Building as an icon and “something most tribal communities wish to have.”

Russell-Winiecki recognized former White Mountain Apache Tribal Chairman Ronnie Lupe, who was voted into office in 1964, for serving a total of 52 years in office as a tribal council representative and chairman.

Manuel encouraged all in attendance to work together and to teach their children about their rich cultures, traditions and languages.

“We have 22 council members present from the Tohono O’odham Nation who are all interested in what’s going to happen as far as having these meetings and our working relationships with the state. How do we move forward in working together?” Manuel said. After making a joke, which filled the gallery with laughter, Manuel went on to share his topics of interest, such as tribal contributions (12 percent gaming contributed to the state of Arizona), a much-needed nursing home, education, infrastructure, the tribe’s museum, water rights and the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

Begaye’s topics included modernizing tribal gaming (keeping it tribal and not commercial), stronger partnerships, water rights, dual taxation, investing in tribal nations and strengthening the workforce. Begaye encouraged attendees to educate their tribal members so they can in turn go back to their own communities to become leaders.

“Our people have walked these valleys, we’ve hunted in these mountains, we’ve raised livestock on our rich land, we’ve fished from the rivers and lakes, and with all that, we are not guests in this chamber, because we belong here,” Begaye said. “Every tribe should be considered for every bill that is passed. In every debate that takes place, they should always have in their minds the Tribal Nations of Arizona because we are a part of the state of Arizona.”

After the address, lunch was served on the Senate lawn. The program ended with an afternoon informational session, “Impact of Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse,” and a Native Youth Know Workshop.

For more information about Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day, visit

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