Visiting Tsuu T'ina members take a tour of Salt River.

Photo by Kasey Kauakahi

First Nations Tribe From Canada Seeks Advice From SRPMIC

By Tasha Silverhorn
Au-Authm Action News

In August, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community hosted two groups of 25 or so members of the Tsuu T’ina Nation of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. They visited the SRPMIC seeking input on how to deal with a proposed highway that will be built through their tribal land.

The SRPMIC welcomed the Tsuu T’ina Nation members, offering guidance and education about how we dealt with the Arizona Department of Transportation when it was constructing the Loop 101 Freeway. A number of departments made presentations to the visitors, including Economic Development, Cultural Preservation, the Salt River Financial Services Institution and the Talking Stick Cultural and Entertainment Destination. The groups were also given a bus tour of the Community to give them a look at the Enterprises and businesses that are beneficial to the Community.

The Tsuu T’ina Nation has been in negotiations with the Canadian province of Alberta (Alberta Transportation) since 2007 regarding building a ring road for Calgary that would cut through a portion of their reserve. An agreement was reached in 2009, but when the Nation received the final documentation, they discovered some of the issues did not reflect what had been agreed on.

“I’ve been [working on the road issue] since 2007. We came to a vote in 2009; we negotiated with the province. In the negotiations, everything was set and things were guaranteed. When we got the final redlines taken off the contract, there were best efforts clauses that forced us to say no and [that certain provisions were] not to our liking,” said former Tsuu T’ina Councillor Lyle Dodginghorse.

“The province approached us again to reopen negotiations, so that brings us where we are today. This time around, we are engaging more council members, more [tribal] members, and more subcommittees to look at different components of the deal to get more networking within the community.”

Dodginghorse explained that they were visiting Salt River to get feedback on how the Tsuu T’ina Nation could take the same steps as the Community did years ago. Also, the Nation currently has a casino that is one of their major sources of tribal income, but they are also looking at how they can establish enterprises and broaden their economic development, as Salt River has done.

Council Representative Tom Largo welcomed the representatives of the Tsuu T’ina Nation to the SRPMIC, and said he appreciated them acknowledging the Community as an example to aspire to. Largo suggested one of the major priorities that the Nation should take a look at is employment for their members if they decide to have the highway go through their community.

“The [ADOT] contractors weren’t utilizing our people for employment during the development of the [Loop 101] freeway,” Largo told the visitors. “We worked on employment guidelines [that would apply to] any kind of construction that takes place along the Pima Corridor; that is something you might want to look at,” said Largo. “We looked at our preference, [and] the language was very weak, so we developed language that held those contractors to provisions that were beneficial to our Community members who would benefit from employment.

It [also provided] guidelines for [outside contractors] on how to interact with our people who would come out and work for them. Those guidelines worked out for years, not only for the development of the freeway, but for any project that takes place in the Community. If you don’t have those guidelines in place, that is something I suggest you take into consideration.”

Largo also explained that all Council representatives sit on Enterprise boards, working as liaisons between the Enterprises and the tribe. The representatives see which business transactions are taking place within the Enterprises, and they take that information back to the Council and the Community members in the form of updates during regular Council meetings.

SRPMIC elder Barbara Johnson shared her experience as a member of one of the families that was relocated because their land was in the path of the Loop 101 Freeway.

“I was young, around nine or 10 years old, when my elders, my grandparents, told me stories of what was going to be happening around my time or my children’s time. They were already talking about a road that was going to be going through the Community,” said Johnson. “They were the ones that inspired me to not allow that to happen. When the freeway proposal came through, I thought all the things I heard are already happening, [just like the] elders said it would happen. We were told the freeway was going at the boundary line [where it is located today]; [our family was] close to the boundary line with 40 acres along there.”

Johnson said that she feared drivers would make shortcuts through the Community, “they won’t stop at stop signs, and [they will] speed just to get where they are going. I thought about all those things, and I didn’t want that to happen; the elders predicted all of this.”

The elders of the Tsuu T’ina Nation also expressed that they were against the highway going through their community, but the younger ones have a different view of how their world should be.

“There is a conflict between us,” explained one Tsuu T’ina elder who traveled to Salt River. She questioned how her people were going to resolve the issues between the two generations.

“We are dominated by young people, but to come here and hear the pros and cons of the freeway put here in your Community will help us go back to the young people of our community and tell them the pros and cons,” said Tsuu T’ina elder Shirley Meguines. “While we have a chance, as older people we have a responsibility to tell them what will go on if the highway goes through.”

The Tsuu T’ina Nation was also given information about the SRPMIC Economic Development Department and how it does business with outside companies.

Economic Development Manager Quanna Dallas explained the process for development in the SRPMIC. Community Development Planner II Terrollene Charley discussed the current update on plans for the Loop 101 Freeway design modifications and expansion.

Angela Garcia-Lewis of the Cultural Preservation Department talked about properly handling and processing any artifacts or burials that are discovered during construction.

Marketing Project Manager Blessing McAnlis-Vasquez spoke about the Talking Stick Cultural and Entertainment Destination and how it has rebranded the Scottsdale Pavilions shopping center. She shared information on new businesses that will be coming in and all the exciting events going on in that area.

On their bus tour, the Tsuu T’ina Nation representatives visited Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, Casino Arizona, the Huhugam Ki Museum and Memorial Hall, and they drove by the Community housing, schools and businesses. The groups were also hosted with a traditional dinner featuring performances from Community dance groups, including the Salt River Traditional Dancers and Bird Singing and Dancing by the River. A Hopi group also performed some traditional Hopi dances.


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