Native Peoples Technical Assistance Office

RII: Native Peoples Technical Assistance Office (NPTAO)

As a core service unit, NPTAO serves as a primary research and resource liaison for Native affairs for the Office for Research, Innovation, and Impact (RII). This includes the Human Subjects Protection Program and Sponsored Projects review for compliance with ABOR 1-118 Tribal Consultation Policy. NPTAO’s website resources are continuously updated for the UArizona community who seek basic information on collaborating with Arizona’s Native nations in research or institutional engagement on behalf of the University of Arizona.

NPTAO provides training and consultation for students, faculty and staff who have an interest in participating in research or institutional engagement with Arizona’s Native nations.

NPTAO is also a key liaison providing technical assistance and resource identification on the request of tribal communities predominantly in Arizona. For a sample of some of our technical assistance projects see our initiatives below.

Message from the Director





Greetings and welcome to the Native American Advancement, Initiatives, and Research web portal, the new home of the Native Peoples Technical Assistance Office web resources. 

Claudia Nelson, Director NPTAO

Claudia Nelson, Director NPTAO

NPTAO is honored to collaborate and share this site with office of the Senior Vice President for Native American Advancement and Tribal Engagement and the office of the Vice Provost for Native American Initiatives who share a vision of providing easily navigable, comprehensive, relevant, and current information for the University of Arizona community when engaging sovereign Native nations and Indigenous communities.

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Message from the Senior Vice President for Research & Innovation






Elizabeth R. Cantwell, PhD Senior Vice President for Research and Innovation

On behalf of the Office of Research, Innovation and Impact, welcome to the University of Arizona NAAIR web portal.  In my role as Senior Vice President for Research and Innovation at the University of Arizona, I facilitate an environment that ensures our world-class researchers are exploring answers and solutions to questions arising from the complexities of our interconnected global environment.  We do research because we seek to make the world better for our families, our communities, and our future generations. 

As the state’s Land Grant institution, the University of Arizona has long recognized its unique mission and obligation to serve all of the diverse peoples and communities of the State of Arizona, including Arizona’s Native Nations.  UArizona is home to a remarkable array of instructional, research, outreach/engagement, and service units that share a fundamental mission:  to assist and support Native Nations in their efforts to achieve economic prosperity, self-determination, improved community health, and cultural strength.  You will find information about these important programs and initiatives on the pages of this portal.

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Collaborators: Ganado School District; Navajo Nation, NPTAO; College of Architecture, Planning & Landscape Architecture; and College of Agriculture & Life Sciences Tribal Extension Programs.


During the 2020 spring semester, NPTAO supported a student engagement project between the ARC510E studio in the School of Architecture, and Ganado High School, in the Ganado community of the Navajo Nation.  During this time, the ARC510E students collaborated with Ms. Doris Nelson and Mr. Leander Thomas, faculty at Ganado High School, to design a program for the future expansion of the Career Technical Education facility.


Over 13 weeks, each student finished a master plan and facility design including new structures to house programs in Nursing, Graphic and Architectural Design, Meat Processing, Veterinary Care and Culinary Arts.  Officials from the Ganado School District have had the opportunity to consider all the design plans and have taken steps to move to the next stage, development of construction-ready drawings and specifications.

Collaborators:  Dr. Stephanie Carroll, Claudia Nelson (NPTAO), and Dr. Felina Cordova-Marks, Ibrahim Garba, Nirav Merchant, and Megan Senseny.

This initiative focuses on recognizing and supporting tribal sovereignty throughout the research and collections enterprise by creating tools, mechanisms, and policies that activate Indigenous peoples’ rights.  The University of Arizona has a long history of supporting Indigenous rights and interests in research.  This group proposes to strengthen those efforts while placing the University of Arizona at the forefront of higher educational institutions by:

  1. Assessing the breadth and depth of repositories and collections on campus that hold Indigenous peoples’ data, information, knowledge, and belongings.
  2. Embedding tribal rights and interests into data policies and practices and potentially reversing historical power imbalances by aligning with the 'people’ and ‘purpose’ for which data exist.
  3. Increasing competitiveness for external funding through synergy and complimentary practices across campus that simultaneously improve that FAIRness of Indigenous data (Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, Reusability).

Notice of the award was announced by the Provost in the spring of 2021 and collaboration has commenced.

Collaborators:  The Colorado River Indian Tribes, Dr. Andy Cohen and Dr. Marty Pepper, Department of Geosciences, CRIT/La Paz County Cooperative Extension 4-H program led by Ms. Debbie Pettigrew, Dr. Jordon Bright, Northern Arizona University, et al.


Recently, both in scientific and public realms, there has been a lot of discussion and debate about the age of the Grand Canyon and the evolution of the Colorado River system. Although deposits related to the Colorado River’s early history have largely been removed from the Grand Canyon, they are very well exposed downstream from it in the lower Colorado River corridor, and are spectacularly exposed on CRIT tribal lands in the Mesquite Mountain area near Parker, AZ. Two main units are present: 1) the Bouse Formation which records the first arrival of Colorado River water and sediment at about 5 million years ago, and 2) the Bullhead Alluvium, which records the first arrival of coarse sediment and gravel, possibly related to the carving of Grand Canyon, around 4 million years ago. USGS geologists first studied these deposits in detail in the 1970s, as the sands and gravels of the Bouse and Bullhead rock units typically hold much of the shallow groundwater resources in the area. Although that and subsequent research has greatly improved our understanding of these units and how they formed, continued work is needed to better understand the timing and exact processes by which the Colorado River was able to reach the Gulf of California.

The project, based in Parker, Arizona, on the CRIT reservation, was a grant-funded, multi-university geoscientific investigation, approved by the CRIT Tribal Council in the fall of 2019. The project involved both scientific studies conducted by a team of university, federal and state agency scientists, and the CRIT 4-H student STEM outreach initiative.  Four Parker High School students were members of the team, supervised by Debbie Pettigrew, CRIT Program Coordinator, Sr. 4-H Youth Development.  The student initiative engaged the students in all field research activities, and all received training in basic geosciences, data collection, videography (click here to view a film of their experiences), and drone aeronautics. UArizona Professor Marty Pepper directed all student field activities and was chief videographer for the project.

The direct, ground-based research was divided into two phases: (1) rock sampling and geoscientific measurements in the Bouse formation which occurred in February 2020; and (2) seismic survey data collection, which was completed in November 2021.  A final report was provided to the Colorado River Indian Tribes in February 2022.

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