Participants of Voices in the Maze at Scottsdale Community College.

Voices in the Maze Hopes to Help Struggling Youth

By Richie Corrales
Au-Authm Action News

A diverse group of individuals, called Voices in the Maze, is looking for ways to help the struggling youth of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. The group was formed by four individuals, and now it has grown to 15 members.

They hope to find solutions to the problems that face many young people on the Community, such as drugs and alcohol.

The group meets monthly to brainstorm ideas. The last meeting took place on July 14 at Scottsdale Community College.

Exploring New Ideas
Voices in the Maze is reviewing the programs and services that are currently available in the Community. The group is thinking of starting a program for the Community youth that would incorporate SPRMIC culture and history to help the youth gain a sense of belonging.

During the July meeting, special guests talked about various activities that can help youth take a more positive path. One of the special guests was Community member and former Community Gardener Jacob Butler, who discussed farming and gardening techniques and crops that can be grown in the Community. Butler gave examples of different corn varieties that Community members are able to grow and explained how the Community garden technicians will come and teach families how to set up and plant their own gardens.

“So far there are 20 gardens here in the Community that we helped with,” said Butler.

Phillip Smith, a student at Scottsdale Community College, showed some of his art pieces to the group. He shared about his four different watercolor paintings that were of the O’odham people and that he plans to create more artwork in the future.

Elder and Cultural Pima Consultant Earl Ray shared stories with the group, one having to do with the Pima cultural tradition about the Man in the Maze. He explained how he and a group of geographers have discovered where “Elder Brother,” also known as the Man in the Maze, could have lived at one time here on the Community. He said that the way they pinpointed the location of his home was by using different mountains around the Valley which matched up to the points on the logo of the Man in the Maze.

Following the presentations, a potluck dinner was served.

Making Progress
“We have been meeting together for the last two years, and very recently we met with SRPMIC President Diane Enos to discuss the program,” said Hazel Rivers. She said that Enos recognizes the potential of the Voices in the Maze group and hopes that more Community members will get involved to help come up with solutions. Due to budget constraints, the group has not been able to establish culture classes at the school, but they continue to meet to try and formulate a plan.

Some of the ideas they have so far include:
1. Designate a time and place where young people can visit and talk one-on-one with the group members.

2. Ask Salt River High School for room to conduct talk sessions. This would include counseling and the Pima/Maricopa culture. “It would be even better if the group is integrated into the curriculum of the local schools,” she said.

3. The group has a “Super Wish”: that the SRPMIC would buy or use an existing site as a youth campground in Payson, Flagstaff or any other cool place up north. Supervised camp activities would integrate the Pima culture, such as Pima/Maricopa history, language, arts and crafts, personal counseling and a variety of sports. The summer could be divided into two sessions, one for teens and the other for younger children.

4. Plan and conduct a youth conference.

“Whatever we decide to do, we must include the Pima/Maricopa culture of our ancestors,” Rivers said.

Some of the changes they hope to see by offering their program to youth include more youth continuing their education and graduating, more Community-member employees, less alcohol and drug use, and a greater awareness of their ancestors’ Indian culture.

The Voices in the Maze group realizes they need support from the SRPMIC Tribal Council, Education Department and other departments, and that they must come up with a solid plan. The group is still looking for other suggestions and ways to implement their ideas.

Voices in the Maze meets once a month at Scottsdale Community College in the Copper Room. For more information or to add your voice to the group, contact Hazel Rivers at (480) 362-3514 or Steve Saffron at (480) 998-8229.

Voices in the Maze
Motto: “We are here for each other.”
Purpose: To help each other through the maze of life, and to especially help the SRPMIC youth to be responsible for their lives and for the future of the Community.

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