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Walk Brings Attention to Community-Wide Anti-Drug Awareness Campaign

They walked to shed light on a critical issue harming the people of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

On May 12, dozens participated in an awareness walk at Salt River High School as part of the Community’s Anti-Drug Awareness Campaign. The walk started northeast of the high school, looped around the education campus and ended outside the high school’s main entrance.

Afterward, SRPMIC President Delbert W. Ray Sr. read the campaign’s proclamation in the school’s lecture hall. Ray said the proclamation was born out of a recent Council retreat.

“The issue of our people is at the center of all of this,” he said. “This is where the proclamation came from; same mind, same heart of trying to save our people, to help our people. This is the desire of the Tribal Council for the betterment of the Community.”

The walk came less than a month after Council gathered tribal government staff together for a special meeting to announce its renewed effort to battle illegal drug and alcohol abuse in the Community. This is when Council adopted the proclamation on April 19.

The campaign’s slogan is We Will Do This Together, Matt o t’ve:m ab o ju:, Mat asheevk uuweshuum. More Community outreach is happening. Two Community-wide discussions related to the Anti-Drug Awareness Campaign are scheduled for June 7 and June 11 (see page 15).

More than 100 people participated in the walk, including President Ray, Vice-President Martin Harvier, and Council members Thomas Largo, Deanna Scabby, Jenelle Howard and Michael Dallas. Harvier acknowledged a Council member from the Navajo Nation in attendance who heard about the campaign through O’odham Action News and wanted to show his support.

Harvier, who introduced the speakers in the lecture hall, said the walk was a kickoff of sorts for Community members to get involved in the campaign.

“As a Council and as a Community, we have to battle this together, we have to do it together; and unfortunately, it’s going to take us doing things we might not want to do, meaning calling the police,” he said.

After the proclamation, guest speakers shared their experience with drug addiction and recovery, including four of the seven SRPMIC members who are part of the “Faces of Recovery” documentary. The documentary shares the challenges associated with trauma and the story of recovery.

Young River People’s Council member Polo Espinoza shared a powerful poem. The 16-year-old said a friend inspired him to write it. “One of my goals is to advocate, support and inspire our youth,” he said.

Information tables on the many tribal government programs related to substance abuse recovery were lined up in the school’s hallway.

Before the walk, Community member and wellness advocate Thosh Collins led the group in a warm-up and shared a few words of encouragement. Collins, Jonathan Curry, Ramon Lopez and others led the walk with traditional song.

“We have the resources and tools in our Community to heal,” Collins said. “We have it from a political and financial standpoint. We (also) have it from a spiritual standpoint, because we have a lot of people in this Community that have strong spirits. We have people here of strong faith, regardless of what faith they chose. We want that next generation to have something better than us. If we put our hearts and minds together, we can do that.”

In closing the event, Ray and Harvier thanked all who participated. Ray told the crowd another phrase to look to is “healing.”

“The slogan Matt o t’ve:m ab o ju: means we are all going to do this together—whether you’re an institution, whether you are a department, we are all going to do this together,” Ray said. “It’s going to take all of us. We can’t bump heads; we can disagree on ideas, but we need to keep going forward.”

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