Many ambassadors from different tribes from the state of Arizona gathered at the State Capital on January 17 for the 70th annual Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day. The purpose of the day is to celebrate the rich culture and history of Arizona’s Tribes and Nations but also to address legislative issues of mutual interest and develop a plan to identify proactive solutions to overcome challenges related to economic growth.
The event began with the Posting of the Colors by the Tohono O’odham Color Guard. Next, the Pledge of Allegiance was lead by Miss Indian Arizona Jamyee Li Moore from the Colorado River Indian Tribes in Parker. The invocation was done by Dallas DeLowe, cultural liaison for the Gila River Indian Community Education Department.
Opening remarks were made by Senate President Steve Pierce and Representative Andy Tobin – Speaker of the House.
State Senator Jack Jackson, Jr., (Window Rock) said it was a great day to talk about issues on Indian Governments. “Each year it’s a tradition and I’m glad we can do it again this year. We hope we can build upon this day and plant a seed,” said Jackson.
Several Arizona tribal leaders spoke during the comments section.
Vice-Chairman Shan Lewis, Fort Mojave Indian Tribe, spoke first and said he supported ideas to allow more communication with Gov. Jan Brewer on Indian country issues like water rights on Indian land. “Water unites us all,” said Lewis. “Tribal water is Tribal water.” Lewis believes water should not be accessible to others unless it is under the Tribe’s consent.
Governor Gregory Mendoza of the Gila River Indian Community told the audience he was recently elected as the twenty-first governor of his community and the youngest to be elected to office.
Mendoza spoke about the pressure to continue to create jobs for his community and gaming.
Mendoza also praised lawmakers who rejected the push for racetrack casinos. He explained gaming compacts will be broken if casinos are built in neighborhoods. Mendoza explained that if casinos are given legal approval to be built, then compact tenets will be broken and it might lead to the development of racetrack casinos.
Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly stressed the need for leaders to collaborate to create jobs in Arizona and on the Navajo Nation. He also focused on the younger generations. “We know the state can help us and we need direct communication with Governor [Jan] Brewer,” said Shelly.
Participants attended workshops throughout the remainder of the day.