The 29th Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day was held on a cold sunny winter day on January 10th in Phoenix at the Arizona State Capitol. This event is organized annually by the Arizona Governor's Office on Tribal Relations in cooperation with representatives from the State's Tribal Nations on Wednesday of the first week of each regular legislative session. Invitations are extended to each member of the state legislature, Governor and other elected officials to pay tribute to the history and culture of the American Indian peoples and their contributions to the prosperity and cultural diversity of the United States.
The day featured a lively Resource Fair as well as a Joint-Protocol Session hosted by the House of Representatives with floor privileges extended to tribal leaders to join their representative(s) during the session. The Tribal Nations Address was conducted by President Martin Harvier, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Chairwoman Sherry Parker, Hualapai Tribe, and Chairman Robert Miguel, Ak-Chin Indian Community. Issues addressed by tribal leaders included housing crisis in Native communities, human services issues, drug abuse problems, youth education and young families retention, fostering economic development on the reservations as well as fair allocation of the transaction privilege tax. All speakers also emphasized the need to work together as “the rising tide lifts all boats,” as put by President Martin Harvier. (You can find the recording of this special session here.)
As Arizona’s land-grant university, the University of Arizona is dedicated to the advancing Native American initiatives that foster student success, promoting tribal interests, and building programs and research capacity to meet the needs of Native Nations. UArizona strives to build sustainable relationships with sovereign Native Nations and indigenous communities through education offerings, partnerships and community service. Levi Esquerra (Chemehuevi) of UArizona Office of Native American Advancement and Tribal Engagement (NAATE) shared that in line with this commitment from the University and President Robbins, this event represents a great opportunity for UArizona program coordinators and representatives to meet and network not only with tribal representatives, students and tribal members, but also other organizations serving tribal nations.
UArizona Agnese Nelms Haury Program in Environment and Social Justice (the Haury Program) was once again a sponsor for this event, and this year partnered with UArizona NAATE to organize a great representation from the UArizona programs at the accompanying Resource Fair. Programs represented, besides NAATE and Haury, included UA Indigenous Resilience Center (IRes), UA Native SOAR, UA Admissions, UA Arizona Institute for Resilience (AIR), UA College of Medicine – Phoenix, UA Cultural and Inclusive Experiential Learning Opportunities (CIELO), UArizona Data Science Academy / Natives Who Code, UA Wassaja Center, UA Center for Creative Photography / Poetry Center and UA Native American Student Association (NASA).
Three years ago, Levi Esquerra introduced the Haury Program to Indian Nations and Tribes Legislation Day, and we have a been a sponsor every year since. Being part of the UArizona’s representation at this gathering, we honor the rich and plentiful contributions of Arizona’s Tribes and Nation. What an inspiring event to greet Native Nations Leaders and hear their priorities, which we can help support through research, engagement and outreach. We invite UArizona people and programs to join us each year to share in this very moving experience.
-Nancy Petersen, Haury’s Assistant Director
Reflecting on the event, Michelle Higgins, Associate Director of the Natives Who Code Program said: “This was a very enjoyable event. Our team had a productive time talking to representatives from different programs and organizations. We were able to have a conversation with funder of our project, Natives Who Code, and learned that conversations are happening around releasing multi-year funds for the coming fiscal year! And, we learned about different internship opportunities for the students who complete our computer science courses.”
It was an awesome day, even though it was cold, and we appreciated partnering with other UArizona teams: it was great to be a part of such energy, strength and pride shown by our indigenous community. I really enjoyed the event because it was an opportunity to see and meet members of our indigenous community that we typically don’t have access to daily. It was great to be able to share information about educational opportunities, that I find many people are not aware they exist. Opportunities such as the Pathway program that I support for underrepresented minorities that desire a career in medicine.
-Marciarose Reid, Coordinator of the Pathway Scholars Program, The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix
Dr. Karletta Chief, Director of the UArizona Indigenous Resilience Center (IRes) (Navajo Nation) also shared: “It was wonderful to connect and learn with many tribal and non-profit organizations and leaders who are doing amazing work in our communities and offering resources to the people. I learned a lot in just a short time and IRes made important connections for future collaboration regarding the environment, education, and capacity building. IRes was truly honored to be recognized on the Senate floor by Senator Sally Gonzales and Senator Hatalthie. We are thankful for their support and inspired by their leadership. We look forward to following up on the connections we made at the Arizona Tribal Legislative Day!” (for a recording of this Senate session view the video here – IRes recognition starts at time mark 13:05.)
Levi Esquerra of NAATE added: “With over 600 attendees of this year’s INTLD, I was really glad to see such strong representation from the University of Arizona programs. And it felt really good to realize that we are starting to see the change: because of all the work we have all done, the tribal leaders now know who we are and introductions are no longer necessary; instead, we can move into deeper conversations on how the University of Arizona can engage with and offer resources to the tribes.”
After the event, IRes and Haury Program hosted a luncheon for UA attendees and guests, including those from Arizona Department of Education – Office of Indian Education, Arizona State University’ Labriola Program, Inter Tribal Council of AZ, United States Department of Agriculture and Phoenix Indian Center. Torran Anderson, Outreach Coordinator for IRes felt this lunch was very important not just to debrief after the event but strengthen relationships based on trust, respect, reciprocity and responsibility in line with IRes’ mission of centering Indigenous ways of knowing and working, and building community of allies. For more information on IRes and their upcoming events please visit their website.