Tohono O'odham Nation

Leadership: (updated July 2020) Contact Information:
Ned Norris Jr., Chairman Address: PO Box 837
Wavalene M. Saunders, Vice Chairwoman                Sells, AZ 85634
  Phone:    520-383-2028
Legislative Council Website:
  Health and Human Services Executive Director: Veronic Geronimo <>
  Education Executive Director: Alberto Siqueiros <>
  Tribal Historic Preservation Officer: Peter Steere <>

GOVERNANCE: Three independent branches of government include; Executive (Chairman and Vice-Chairman), Legislative (Tribal Council with two representatives from each of the 11 Tohono O'odham districts), and Judicial (Courts and Judges).

The Chairman and Vice-Chairman (Executive Branch), and Tribal Council representatives are elected for staggered 4-year terms. The last election was held May 2015.  Elections are held in odd years. The Tribal Council elects from its own membership a Legislative Chairman and Legislative Vice-Chairman to serve 2 years. The Tribal Council representatives each serve on three of the Legislative Councils 12 standing committees.

Each of the eleven districts has its own governing district council with at least five representatives, including a chairman and vice-chairman. Each district governs itself in matters of local concern.

The Tribal Council meets monthly for 5-day general sessions.

The Tohono O'odham Nation resides in Congressional District 3, Legislative District 4. 


To watch a video presentation by Tohono O'odham Nation Cultural Resources Specialist Joe Joaquin click here. Or read the transcript.

COMMUNITY PROFILE: The Tohono O'odham Nation, "People of the Desert," have lived in the region for more than 10,000 years. The federally-recognized sovereign nation was greatly affected by the legacy of the 1853 Gadsen Purchase, which split their lands between the United States and Mexico. Twentieth-century federal policies of forced relocation moved numerous Tohono O'odham families outside of Arizona, yet many continue to live in the Sonoran desert of their ancestral lands. 

According to the U.S. Census, 20,449 individuals live on Tohono O'odham tribal land in Arizona.  The Nation is comprised of four distinct segments. The largest of these (the Tohono O'odham Reservation) is located 63 miles west of Tucson, Arizona, and is more than 2.8 million acres. San Xavier, the second largest land base, is 71,095 acres. Smaller areas are the San Lucy District (near Gila Bend, AZ), and Florence Village (near Florence, AZ). The Tohono O'odham Nation is organized into 11 districts with Sells, Arizona, functioning as the Nation's capital. 

Prior to the 1980s, the Tohono O'odham were known as the Papago Tribe. Many Tohono O'odham families continue to speak Tohono O'odham, in spite of the language use decreasing over time.  According to the Census, 52 percent of the Tohono O'odham speak a language other than English.* Tohono O'odham Nation families have a significantly high poverty rate (42 percent), more than double the 17.7 percent rate for the state of Arizona.

The Tohono O'odham Nation operates a two-year accredited community college in Sells, Arizona, offering numerous degrees, certificates, and other credentials. Principal economic activities include tourism - most notably the Mission San Xavier del Bac - and three casinos. The casinos employ more than 1,200 Native American and non-Native people.  The Nation also operates other facilities, such as the Tohono O'odham Utility Authority, Tohono O'odham Economic Development Authority, and the Tohono O'odham Gaming Enterprise. 

Mission San Xavier del Bac
*All statistics are from the 2011-2015 American Community Survey, 5-Year Estimates.