STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Today should have been a day dedicated to the 22 Native American nations in the State of Arizona.
Arizona statute requires that the Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day be held each year on the second Tuesday in January after the start of each new legislative session. The purpose of this day is to acknowledge the culture and history of Arizona’s Native American nations and to hear from Native American nation leaders about legislative and policy issues. Jan. 22 is the second Tuesday following the start of this session but the event was postponed until Feb. 5.
Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 7), a founding member of the Native American Caucus, said this delay is part of a pattern. In the past, the House of Representatives and the Senate took turns hosting the day-long event. According to tradition, the House was supposed to host the event last year but did not.
“We encourage a greater understanding and appreciation of Native American issues,” Hale said. “For Native American peoples, these are not one-day issues; these are everyday issues. Native Americans are citizens of the State of Arizona and a part of the history of our nation. The topics that are important to Native American communities are of importance to all communities. We welcome all to share ideas with us.”
Senator Jack Jackson, Jr., D-Window Rock (District 7), said that upholding traditions is one of the best ways to keep people informed about Native American issues.
“Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day was created 16 years ago after a conversation between longtime House Majority Leader Burton Barr and my father, Senator Jack Jackson, Sr. Their vision was to create a way to foster good relations and a productive dialogue between legislators and the many tribes native to Arizona,” Jackson said. “Over the last 16 years our tribes have come to the Capitol on the second Tuesday of session to participate in Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day. That specific day is mandated in statute and tradition is to have the House host one year and the Senate the next. Disappointingly, for the second year in a row, it will have to be delayed.”
Despite the delay, members of the Native American Caucus will participate in the Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day. Additionally, the caucus will meet regularly to promote a better understanding of Native American issues. Legislators and members of the public are invited to attend.
“I hope I am wrong, but there appears to be a dismissive sentiment directed toward Native American nations and peoples and a Native American event that is mandated by Arizona state law,” Hale said. “For years, we have been working to help our fellow legislators better understand Native American issues and cultures. The Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day is a large part of that effort, and I fear this is being seen as unimportant. That has to change.”
Below is a schedule of caucus meetings and topics of discussion.
Jan. 24 – Federal Indian Law 101
Jan. 31 – Introduction of Agencies and Organizations with Resources
Feb. 5 – 18th Annual Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day
Feb. 7 – Transaction Privilege Tax
Feb. 21 – Indian Child Welfare Act
March 7 – Navajo Generating Station
March 21 – Obesity, Clinton Foundation
April 4 – Native American Nations Revenue: Gaming/Tourism
April 18 – Northern AZ Water Rights Settlement
All meetings will be held in House Rooms 035/038 (Basement) except for the Jan 31st meeting – it will be held in Senate Caucus Room 2 from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.