Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community members celebrated another anniversary of the legal formation of the Community.
The June 11 celebration marked the Community’s 137th birthday and included a packed day of activities at the Two Waters Complex. The anniversary was celebrated on a Saturday, three days before the official birthday on Tuesday, June 14.
SRPMIC President Delbert Ray Sr. read the proclamation and shared some of the Community’s history. U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes, through executive order, established the borders of the Community in January 1879. Less than a year later, in June, Hayes reconfigured the original 600,000 acres down to 52,600 acres.
The Community once stretched from where Glendale sits today to the San Carlos area, Ray said.
“The people of the Salt River Indian Community have overcome many obstacles throughout history only to remain strong and unified,” Ray said in the proclamation. “And whereas we continue to recognize and honor our ancestors, and whereas the culture and traditions remain vital to the people, [we] will assure that the culture and traditions of our ancestors and our people are passed on to our children.”
The celebration’s activities included a pancake breakfast, a leadership honoring ceremony, traditional dancing and singing, and a live band. A free pulled-pork sandwich meal was provided for dinner. Arts and crafts, children games and food vendors were also available.
Shortly before Ray read the proclamation, he led an honoring ceremony that recognized the Community’s rich history of leaders. The SRPMIC Council chambers was filled with past and present Community leaders who laid its foundation and vision.
As he looked around the chambers, Ray reminisced about past leaders. He remembered Josiah King and others debating long into the night and said, “Those of you sitting here, you know those long nights, thank you for your dedication.”
Ray thanked the leadership and said that Community Day should be to celebrate the past, the present and the future and to remember those who helped get us here.
“Thank you for the foresight and taking care of the youth and elders,” Ray said. “It took all of us to come to this point and will take all of us to move forward.”
He also acknowledged families for their sacrifice in allowing their family members to serve the government of the Community.
Assistant Community Manager Kent Andrews and Community Relations Director Janet Johnson read names of past and present leadership.
Vernon Soos retired in March and received a special service award for his combined 42 years and six months of service to the Community. Soos maintained the roads and irrigation system, first for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and later for the Community when it took over the program from the BIA in 1998. He received a framed certificate and a $540 gift package that included a stay at Talking Stick Resort.
Ray acknowledged Soos’ service to the Community Day Celebration crowd.
“We offer you happiness and well wishes in your retirement,” Ray said. “Please accept our gift of a Talking Stick Destination Staycation package as a token of our appreciation.
Ernesto Ruiz Jr. attended the celebration in support of his father, Ruiz Sr., a longtime Community leader who was recognized at the ceremony.
“I came to celebrate my dad’s achievements,” Ruiz Jr. said. “I always like coming to the Community events. They’re fun and they never disappoint.”