On a crisp day in Anaheim, California, more than 70 Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community members and their family members residing in California came out to meet with the Salt River Tribal Council and staff members. The one-day SRPMIC Member-California Residents Meeting was held on Saturday, May 9, at the Anaheim Marriott Suites from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
As members arrived, staff were on hand to greet them and direct them to the meeting room. Emily King and Lisa Fulwilder from Administration registered the members. A lanyard with a basket design designated the enrolled member, and each was given a bag with goodies. More than 45 members RSVP’d for the event, and gift cards were presented to the first 15 who responded to the early-bird registration.
Preparation for the meeting began in February. The location was selected based on the meeting held in 2014; attendees at that meeting agreed that Anaheim was a central location. Presentations and updates were made by staff from SRPMIC Health Services, the Community Development Department (CDD), Administration, Community Relations, Court, General Counsel and the IT Department. Several departments and Community enterprises were asked to prepare display boards set up within the meeting space to provide a glimpse of each entity’s organization and business areas.
The meeting opened with a blessing and a welcome from SRPMIC President Delbert Ray, Sr., along with introductions by the Council members. The agenda included topics beneficial to SRPMIC members living off the Community. The first topic was “How to Stay Connected to the Community,” which I presented. The presentation included signing up to receive Community announcements, which are sent daily to members through their personal email. Members took advantage of this tool; 11 members signed up.
Also, 13 members filled out new subscriptions to Au-Authm Action News and 10 members signed up for the new Government Services Portal to view Council meetings online. Individuals were able to sign up for services onsite or take information and sign up at a later date.
My presentation also included information on the number of views to our Community website. From January through March 2015, the Community website had an average of 1,350 views in the Los Angeles area, and in the state of California there were 2,731 for the month of March 2015.
The second topic was “Project Updates,” provided by Community Manager Bryan Meyers. He informed the California members about the new facilities within the Community, including the Xalychidom Piipaash Nyvaash, Judicial Center and Way of Life facility. He discussed new projects coming to the Talking Stick Cultural and Entertainment Destination, including the OdySea Aquarium, opening in 2016. Meyers also presented on the “Per Capita Initiative,” sharing the same information provided at the Community meetings.
Michael Shiel, general counsel, provided an update on the Tohono O’odham gaming issue; his presentation was very thorough and included the full background history to where the issue is today.
“The last time I visited the Community was in 2010. I look forward to my next visit, especially after hearing about all of the new Community activities and projects,” said Candace Marie Blackwater Toscano. “The topic of the Tohono O’odham gaming issue was something I probably wouldn’t have heard about if I hadn’t attended the meeting. It was very important.”
Community members were given time to ask questions of the Council, and most gave thanks for hosting the meeting. A shared lunch was provided, which gave time for members to view the displays, meet with staff one-on-one, sign up for the Government Services Portal, and sign up for the newspaper subscription and announcements. Many lined up for new SRids and to check into their land interest with staff from the CDD. Health and Human Services staff and a representative from Indian Health Service California were also on hand to answer questions.
“I was able to get a new ID card and sign up for the local newspaper, Au-Authm Action News, and the Government Services Portal. I have attended a couple of the SRPMIC Member-California Residents Meetings in the past, and this has been the best yet,” said Blackwater Toscano. “I was honored to meet Council members and staff, and they were so friendly. Thank you for inviting us, and especially for all the good information.”
Waiting to get his updated SRid was 2-year-old Ecohe Mashad Archey from Los Angeles. His current SRid had a teddy bear in place of his photo. He proudly held his SRid, showing the staff his teddy bear. His parents weren’t sure if he would sit calmly to take his photo. As he sat in the chair, his parents pushed his bangs back and asked him to smile. He was very candid and continued to smile while Berlene Dallas of CDD prepared to take his photo. Archey was one of two youth under 3 years old who were getting their SRid.
Throughout the meeting, drawings were held for the chance to win gifts from Talking Stick Cultural and Entertainment Destination businesses, gift cards and craft items representing the Pima and Maricopa tribes. SRPMIC.tv filmed the meeting; a short clip of the meeting will be posted on their site for everyone to view.
Today, there are 391 SRPMIC members residing in California. Approximately 234 of them live in the Los Angeles/Riverside County areas, 140 live in central and northern California, and 15 live both in Winterhaven and near Fresno.
The meeting with SRPMIC members residing in California began in the 1990s, when the Tohono O’odham Nation held a meeting in San Diego for its California members and invited Salt River and Gila River to attend. Representing Salt River was former Vice-President Merna Lewis, along with a few staff members. Both Salt River and Gila River held a joint meeting with their members at the San Diego meeting. Tohono O’odham brought staff members to issue IDs and register their members for services. At that time, Salt River and Gila River both provided general presentations on services. The following year, Salt River and Gila River held another joint meeting with their members residing in California. Both tribes shared equal time on presentations and shared a lunch. Lewis and former President Ivan Makil along with staff continued to meet with the membership in California periodically throughout the 1990s. Salt River held meetings with its members in Los Angeles and in Burbank to provide service updates.
Since then, no meetings had been held in California until 2014, when former President Diane Enos and the Council and staff met with the members in May last year to issue SRids and provide updates on the Tohono O’odham casino issue, new election ordinance and enrollment.