The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Fatherhood and Healthy Relationships Program, sponsored by the Social Services Division, hosted a Father’s Day celebration dinner on June 15 for all the Community fathers who participate in the program. The dinner was held at the Eagles Buffet at Casino Arizona.
Forty families attended the celebration, which featured guest speakers who talked about fatherhood and what it means for men to be good role models to their families and to be good citizens of the Community.
James Rodriguez, CEO/president of the Fathers & Families Coalition of America, gave a testimony on some of the difficulties he went through in his life and how working through that has brought him to a better place. Community member Donald Santeo and Clay Dix, a former Arizona State University professor, also spoke at the dinner.
Santeo touched on the subjects of being a father but also of being an addict at a young age. He shared his personal experiences dealing with addiction and remembered having alcoholic seizures when he was 20. He said, “I used to think that I wasted 12 years of my life because of my addiction to alcohol.” But he learned from his experience. He added, “It was not all a complete waste of time, because you learn from your mistakes.” It is important to pass along what you’ve learned. A father himself, Santeo said that all he wants is to be there for his children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. “I want to be a good role model from one day to another; we are the leaders and we are the role models,” he said. He said he hoped the topics in his speech touched some of the fathers in attendance that evening.
Kevin Poleyumptewa, coordinator of the Fatherhood and Healthy Relationships Program, talked about what it means to be a good father. “We sometimes lose sight of what it can [mean to a child] to be a good father,” said Poleyumptewa. He also thanked all the women present, saying “Fathers also need to start making time for their relationships with their spouses. They are here to support the men, and they are here to show that they care,” he said. “Remember that our children are always watching us and how we handle our relationships, and [our example] will help them with their (relationships) as they grow older and have their own families.”
Poleyumptewa closed by saying that the level of violence within the Community can decrease if fathers and mothers talk to their children about it in their homes.
Professor Dix, a community leader and activist who was the first chair of ASU’s social work program in its College of Human Services, was a fatherless child who was raised by everyone he lived near. Dix remembered that when he was about 6, he would hear his friends talk about where their fathers had taken them or what they had bought them, and Dix would say his father did the same thing. “I had to create an imaginary father to fit in with others,” said Dix.
Dix organized “ice breakers” for the fathers at the dinner, asking each one to remember something their father had taught them; some attendees responded that their fathers taught them to “work hard” or “show respect.”
Dix explained the importance and impact of a father in the various life stages of children, and how both the mother and father need to create a balancing effect in their children’s development, with the mother to hover and the father to push. He talked about the impressions fathers make on their daughters and how important it is to their future development and their future relationships with men that fathers to be there for daughters and show them love and attention, especially when they are teenagers.
Dix said, “If the fathers are not around, daughters tend to think they are less appealing and start to look for attention in negative ways. And the same with the boys—at that age they need the right guidance and direction. When they don’t have father figures, they create them in gangs, or else they [become fathers themselves at a young age] in order to be there for [someone else].
“Fathers need to become attached to their families, and women need to know that fathers are essential in every family,” Dix concluded.