'Still here:' Native American scholars discuss Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Phoenix is part of a growing list of cities celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Day instead of Columbus Day.

October 14, 2019

Growing up in Phoenix, Arizona State University alumnaLaura Medina graduated with a master's degree in indigenous rights and social justice from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ American Indian Studies program in 2018. Today, she works as a student success and retention coordinator at the American Indian Student Support Services. Laura Medina enjoyed getting the day off school for Columbus Day every October. But she also remembers feeling conflicted. The holiday celebrates Italian explorer Christopher Columbus’ “discovery” of North America in 1492. And as a member of Michigan’s Ojibwe tribe, Medina knew that the land he sailed to was neither empty, nor undiscovered. Tribal civilizations like that of her ancestors were already there, and Columbus’ arrival was the start of a brutal colonization campaign that permanently altered their lives.  

“Columbus Day did not feel right, even as a kid,” Medina said. “Back then, you’d sometimes hear people asking why we celebrate Columbus, then around 2012 I started hearing about the idea of celebrating something else, instead.” Laura Medina graduated with a master's degree in indigenous rights and social justice from the American Indian Studies program in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. ASU alumna Laura Medina has attended the Indigenous Peoples' Day march in Phoenix for the past two years. This year, she helped organize it. Download Full Image

Now she’s doing exactly that. This year, she’s spending the holiday with ASU students, local community members and fellow alumni for an Indigenous Peoples’ Day march through downtown Phoenix.

Organized this year by ASU’s student-led Alliance of Indigenous People, the event is the third of its kind in Phoenix.

The Indigenous Peoples' Day designation was first proposed in 1977, at the International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas in Geneva. Its proponents sought to shed light on the genocide, displacement and continued discrimination indigenous communities in North America faced as a result of colonization.

More than four decades later, Phoenix is one of over 100 cities and 15 states across the U.S. to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day in lieu of or alongside Columbus Day.

Medina said it’s an opportunity for Arizona’s 22 Native American tribes to be heard, and for the public to recognize a piece of history that has been left out.

“Colonization has made us invisible in the past, reclaiming this day gives us the power to challenge that and come together as a community,” she said. “I also think it’s exciting for people to see students of color from such an important institution leading this; it shows ASU is accessible to everyone.”

We caught up with other academics from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ American Indian Studies program to hear more about the history of Indigenous Peoples’ Day and what it means to them. 

David Martinez

David Martinez is an associate professor in The College's American Indian Studies program.

The 1977 resolution helped propel the conversation about Indigenous Peoples’ Day forward. But David Martinez, an associate professor in the American Indian Studies program and a member of Arizona’s Gila River Indian Community, traces the idea back to the country’s first rights group created for and by Native Americans over a century ago. 

“The Society of American Indians held their first meeting in 1911 and on their agenda was the establishment of an American Indian Day,” Martinez said. “The concept of Indigenous Peoples’ Day is in many ways the latest chapter in that effort, in that it served to give a sense of meaning to the American Indian identity and draw attention to the fact we exist.”

Though the society mostly disbanded after fighting for and winning federal citizenship rights through the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, Martinez said the push for recognition they started lived on in the work of indigenous activists that followed. Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day helps their fight continue.

"For a long time, history has been told from the side of the European discoverers, which is that Columbus embarked on this hero journey and found this land Western civilization hadn’t seen before,” he said. “There is no problem recognizing somebody's ancestor, in this case a European ancestor, having done something dangerous, but the presumption of discovery erases us from the narrative.”

He said it’s also about honoring contributions American Indians have made to society.

“Whether it’s episodes of tribes assisting settlers to get through winter, like at Plymouth Rock, or the indigenous sense of environmental stewardship and appreciation for the land, our culture has influenced a lot of facets of America,” he said. “I think one important thing to remember is that this holiday is also about acknowledging that impact.”

Jayme Deschene

Jayme Deschene graduated with a master's degree from The College's American Indian Studies program in 2015.

Born and raised in the Navajo Nation city of Kayenta, Arizona, Jayme Deschene was surrounded by her Native American culture from a young age. She said Indigenous Peoples’ Day helps bring to light why tradition and land matter so deeply to indigenous communities. 

“Land is very connected to being indigenous because our land holds our stories, our stories are our heritage, and our heritage is connected to the way we live today,” she said. “As a Navajo person, I am lucky to still have some of my homeland, but many others do not — I think this day is important to help people understand that when that land was taken, a part of our identity was taken too.”

Deschene graduated with a master’s degree in indigenous rights and social justice from the American Indian Studies program in 2015. She returned to campus a year later as a student success and retention coordinator with the American Indian Student Support Services, a position she still holds today.  

Now living in Tempe, she said it can be challenging to ensure her three children get the full picture when it comes to understanding the past.

“My daughter is 7, and some of the school work she brings home about settlers at Plymouth Rock makes almost no mention of Native Americans,” she said. “I try to talk to her about what is missing or incorrect, and give her additional materials about our history.” 

Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day is one way to drive that understanding further forward.

“Sitting on campus, we are on ancestral tribal land right now, but a lot of people don’t realize that,” Deschene said. “Indigenous Peoples’ Day is not so much about older communities as it is about educating younger generations like my daughter’s and making sure our history, language and culture continues.”

Eric DeLorme

Eric DeLorme is a graduate student in The College's American Indian Studies program.

For Eric DeLorme, a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree from the American Indian Studies program, returning to school was a chance to gain more insight into cultures across North America.

“My mother is Mexican American and I am an enrolled Pueblo of Acoma tribal member in New Mexico, and a descendant of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians in Montana,” DeLorme said. “I studied Chicana/o studies in my undergraduate years, now I want to expand my knowledge of indigenous peoples all the way from Canada down through Mexico.”

DeLorme sees Indigenous Peoples’ Day as a chance to recognize a historic trauma and honor the sacrifices made by communities that came before.

“I see this as a day to remember that we survived genocide, my ancestors fought hard so that I can put my feet on this earth today. The movement now is regaining the identities that were lost during colonization,” he said. 

Some controversy between Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day continues, but DeLorme said it’s important to keep conversations going, even when difficult.

“I think what’s happening now, with people discussing these differences, that’s a good thing, because it’s the first step in challenging the narrative,” he said. “By acknowledging another part of this country’s history, we can get closer to understanding one another.” 

Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


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Indigenous Act helped complete the work of the 19th Amendment

October 11, 2019

ASU professor says voting inequalities for Native Americans still exist nearly a century after Congress granted them citizenship

The 19th Amendment of the American Constitution officially gave women the right to vote in 1920, putting to rest decades of contention, civil disobedience and suffrage efforts.

However, many people don’t realize that not all women (and men) were on equal footing after its passage.

The Indian Citizen Act of 1924 gave Native American men and women full citizenship (and the right to vote). And nearly a century later, it’s still a struggle.

To commemorate the lead-up to the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Oct. 14, ASU Now turned to Katherine Osburn for elucidation.

Osburn, an associate professor in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, is an ethnohistorian whose research focuses on gender, race and political activism. Her current book project, "Sovereignty, Services, and Citizenship," focuses on the relationship between indigenous peoples and the state of Arizona. She said despite the good intentions behind the 1924 act, the legislation remains a work in progress.

Woman in blue dress

Katherine Osburn

Question: What was the Snyder Act, and how did it come to pass?

Answer: The Indian Citizenship Act granted full citizenship to all indigenous peoples living in the United States, but it is important to understand that a fair number of Native Americans had already become citizens before it passed. Throughout the 19th century, state officials occasionally granted their indigenous neighbors citizenship if the applicant appeared to be “civilized.”

Policymakers could debate what activities constituted civilized behavior, but the one constant in the decision to extend or withhold citizenship was tribal standing. Government administrators regarded Indians who lived on tribal lands as owing allegiance to an alien political system. This was one reason why Indians who accepted individual allotments of land under the 1887 policy of forced assimilation known as the Dawes Act received citizenship if they lived on their allotments for 25 years. Policymakers believed that living on these allotments severed tribal ties and assimilated Indians.

Moreover, by the 20th century Congress had extended citizenship to numerous indigenous persons through random provisions of individual acts of Congress and as a reward for military service. Yet many Indians still lacked citizenship until Congress granted (or imposed upon, depending on your point of view) citizenship to remaining American Indians. Support for Indian citizenship in Congress was no doubt bolstered by their military service in World War I, but the larger context of this act was rooted in a desire to assimilate indigenous peoples into the mainstream of American culture. After all, the Dawes Act was still in force. 

The text of the act reads:

"Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That all noncitizen Indians born within the territorial limits of the United States be, and they are hereby, declared to be citizens of the United States: Provided, That the granting of such citizenship shall not in any manner impair or otherwise affect the right of any Indian to tribal or other property."

In a legal sense, the second part of the act allowing citizen Indians to continue residing on tribal property undercut the long-standing idea that living in tribal communities was incompatible with citizenship. In a practical sense, however, state officials carrying out the machinations of citizenship still resisted extending full citizenship rights to their indigenous neighbors on reservations. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 had established the process for creating new states, and it allowed state officials to construct the stipulations for exercising the franchise. Thus, the Snyder Act extended the franchise in word, but not necessarily in deed. This meant that as late as 1938, seven states still disfranchised indigenous citizens. Arizona was one of those states.

Q: The irony of allowing indigenous peoples, who were here first and allowed to vote last, is not lost here. How galling it must have been for all Native peoples.

A: Leaving suffrage for the First Americans for last is indeed ironic, but it was that very matter of being First Nations that created that situation. Indigenous peoples are citizens of tribal polities that existed before the creation of the United States, and these polities hold a government-to-government relationship with the United States. Thus, their political status is unique, and that means that they are not just another minority group hoping for inclusion in the U.S. political order. For indigenous communities, protecting their sovereignty as tribal nations is the paramount political concern. Indeed, in the early 20th century, most indigenous communities were focused on immediate matters of survival under very difficult economic conditions. At the time the act was passed, a minority of Native Americans called for the franchise, and they did so more to improve the lives of their people through political engagement than from a desire to participate in American political institutions.

The most prominent advocates of citizenship and voting rights in the early 20th century were certain members of the Society of American Indians (SAI), a pan-Indian organization founded to lobby Congress and the Indian Service on behalf of Indian self-determination and to educate the public on Indian issues. The SAI was created on Columbus Day in 1911 by a group of highly educated Indian professionals (graduates of Indian boarding schools and American colleges) who had been working with sociologist Fayette Avery McKenzie of Ohio State University to improve Indian policy. One of the most prominent leaders was Dr. Carlos Montezuma (Wassaja), a Yavapai whose family resided in the Mazatzal Mountains.

In 1871, a Pima raiding party had kidnapped Wassaja and sold him to an Italian immigrant named Carlos Gentile. Gentile renamed him Carlos Montezuma and sent him to boarding schools and then to college. Montezuma took a medical degree from Chicago Medical College in 1889 and helped to found the SAI in 1911. In 1916, Montezuma started a journal titled Wassaja in which he expressed his criticisms of the way indigenous peoples were treated. When WWI broke out, he editorialized that, without citizenship and full civil rights, Indians should not be compelled to fight, especially since they were allegedly fighting for democracy, the benefits of which they were denied at home. This was a position held by a lot of indigenous peoples. Others felt that fighting would earn them citizenship. Still, citizenship in the United States for indigenous peoples is a dual citizenship and must be understood as such.

Although Montezuma sought civil rights for indigenous peoples, he also fought for Yavapai self-determination, helping to create their reservation at Fort McDowell in 1903 and supporting the resistance to relocating them to the Salt River Reservation in 1918 and 1919. He led efforts to win water rights for the reservation in the early 1920s. ... He represented a new way of thinking in the early 20th century that sought to use citizenship as a tool of indigenous self-determination. Voting must always be seen in that context.

Q: Why did it take longer for indigenous peoples to be fully franchised than for women?

A: The issues surrounding the 19th Amendment were very different than those of disfranchised indigenous peoples. Women’s voting rights were entangled with assumptions about gender, while Indian voting was linked to their unique political status. Moreover, simply passing the Indian Citizen Act did not fully franchise Indians. Since states set the parameters of voting rights, they were able to raise barriers to Indian voting.

While literacy tests and poll taxes were used against indigenous voters in many places, the primary impediments to voting were generally rooted in the unique political status of indigenous peoples as belonging to separate polities. Some states borrowed the language of the U.S. Constitution in Article 1, Section 2, which bars “Indians not taxed” from citizenship and used it to deny voting rights. Legislators in Idaho, Maine, Mississippi, New Mexico and Washington withheld the franchise from their indigenous citizens because those who were living on reservation lands did not pay property taxes. In New Mexico, Utah and Arizona, state officials argued that living on a reservation meant that Indians were not actually residents of the state, which prevented their political participation. These issues were at the forefront in Arizona when indigenous activists challenged their disfranchisement.

Article 7, Section 2, of the Arizona constitution stated, “No person under guardianship, non-compos mentis, or insane shall be qualified to vote in any election.” Arizona lawmakers understood this as prohibiting Indians from voting because they were allegedly under federal guardianship on their reservations. When two Pima men from the Gila River Reservation attempted to vote, the Pinal County recorder refused them. Tribal leaders mounted legal challenges that finally reached the Arizona Supreme Court. In Porter v. Hall (1928), the state argued that indigenous Arizonans were outside of the political boundaries of the state and that, following Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831), they were wards of the federal government. The court dismissed the first notion but fastened on the second. Arizona Indians lived within state political boundaries but, as long as they resided on reservations, they were under the guardianship of the federal government — as federal officials had maintained. Regardless of the provisions of the ICA, they would remain disfranchised until they assimilated and abandoned their tribal status. The Arizona Supreme Court eventually overturned Porter in Harrison v. Laveen (1948), on the grounds that the guardianship clause in the Arizona constitution violated the 14th and 15th amendments. Despite this victory, literacy requirements still disfranchised Arizona Indians until the 1965 Voting Rights Act banned them.

Q: Did the Indian Citizen Act end up making a difference? Did Native Americans end up becoming a big voting bloc?

A: Yes and no. No, because efforts to disfranchise indigenous Americans continued regardless of the law. Yes, because the Indian Citizen Act, paired with the 14th and 15th amendments, provided the foundation for legal challenges. Court victories against voting restrictions throughout the 1940s and 1950s helped more indigenous citizens to exercise their rights. In the 1950s, the Indian vote was significant in several Western states. In the 1956 election, both parties in Arizona issued a statement on their Indian policy, and in 1964 President Johnson's campaign made a point of reaching out to Indian voters.

More significant, however, was the Voting Rights Act, and the 1970 and 1975 amendments that strengthened the act. The Voting Rights Act outlawed any practices that “deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color” and established federal oversight of elections in areas where discrimination had historically been practiced. Apache, Coconino and Navajo counties came under scrutiny for disfranchising Native voters, and the literacy requirements were finally struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court under the provisions of the 1970 amendments. In 1975, Apache County attempted to gerrymander its voting districts to dilute the Navajo vote. Navajos challenged the action, and the case made its way to the District Court for Arizona. In Goodluck v. Apache County (1975), the court struck down the gerrymandering as unconstitutional. That same year, amendments to the Voting Rights Act ordered that language assistance be given to voters whose first language was not English. This provision increased voting on Navajo lands in San Juan County, Utah, by 95%. Indigenous voter rolls in Arizona have grown steadily ever since, and candidates for public office ignore their concerns at their peril.

Q: What is the situation today with Native American turnouts at the booths, and do they still face issues?

A: In recent years, indigenous voters played a significant role in Western states where their numbers are greatest. Janet Napolitano traced her victory in the 2002 Arizona governor’s race to the Native vote, and indigenous voters helped Al Gore carry New Mexico in 2000. The National Congress of American Indians created a national campaign of voter registration and education titled Native Vote in 2004. They encouraged tribes to hold their tribal elections on the same day as national elections, and places that followed this advice increased turnout significantly. On the Navajo Nation, Code Talkers (veterans who had used the Navajo language for security in wartime communications in WWII) traveled the reservation in 2004 urging their people to vote. In Phoenix, the Native American Community Organizing Project registered voters for the 2004 elections, and both Democrats and Republicans reached out to indigenous voters.

Ultimately, however, election officials across the nation have continued to suppress the Native American vote. Current challenges include refusal to accept tribal identification cards and residences — reservations often do not have traditional street addresses — for voter registration, scant language assistance, and inaccessible polling and registration sites. These problems led to a bipartisan investigation on indigenous voting rights in 2018 that resulted in the Native Voting Rights Act. The bill creates a Native American Voting Rights Task Force to provide funds and assistance to tribes for increasing voter participation and addresses problems with voter registration and polling sites. The bill provides funds for federal election observers and requires the Department of Justice to consult annually with tribes to make certain elections are flowing smoothly. It is stalled in the Senate, and its passage is not certain given the current political climate.

As always, however, indigenous peoples are not waiting on the federal government to deliver justice. Indigenous leaders all across the nation have organized to resist disfranchisement. Here at ASU, Patty Ferguson-Bohnee, director of the Indian Legal Clinic at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, founded Native Vote project in 2004. Third-year law students run the clinic, which provides both legal and practical assistance to Arizona’s indigenous voters. Most galling to some of the workers is the presence of nonindigenous poll workers disqualifying indigenous voters on indigenous lands. Native volunteers monitor 12 polling stations around the state to prevent such actions and provide legal assistance on the phone. Nearly a century after the Indian Citizen Act established American citizenship for indigenous peoples, its promises are still not fully realized, but indigenous activists and tribal leaders continue to demand the United States keep its word to America’s first peoples.

Top photo: President Calvin Coolidge posed with Native American men, possibly from the northwestern United States, near the south lawn of the White House on Feb. 18, 1925. It was taken after Coolidge signed the bill granting Native Americans full citizenship. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Reporter , ASU Now


Public service with a crown: ASU alumna becomes Miss Navajo Nation

October 4, 2019

Last month, Arizona State University alumna Shaandiin Parrish stood in front of a crowd at the annual Navajo Nation Fair and waited to learn whether she’d become Miss Navajo Nation 2019.

Over the previous five days, her traditional knowledge had been put to the test with a series of rigorous competitions focused on Navajo language, culture and practices. She’d spent months preparing, making regular trips back to her family home in the Navajo Nation’s Kayenta, Arizona, to hone her skills under the watchful eye of her grandmother. To Parrish, participating in the pageant was about more than a title. It was about upholding a traditional way of life and giving back to a community she’d spent time away from while at ASU.  ASU alumna Shaandiin Parrish wearing a crown standing in front of a desert backdrop Shaandiin Parrish graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science and a minor in educational studies in 2018. This September, she became Miss Navajo Nation 2019. Download Full Image

Discovering she’d won, Parrish felt a flood of emotions.

“It was such an honor, but also very overwhelming,” she said. “This is a title that means so much to our people — I think in that moment I felt all the responsibility of it, and the crown was suddenly very heavy.” 

Parrish is no stranger to the pageant world. She’s been competing since she was young and has already held Miss Indian ASU and Miss Indian Arizona titles. But in the mosaic of pageants across the U.S., Parrish said the Miss Navajo Nation title is unique. 

Winners spend a year visiting over 27,000 square miles of tribal land. Because the Office of Miss Navajo Nation is a branch of the tribal government, the titleholder also serves as a goodwill ambassador, promoting community health, economic development and other initiatives. 

“To become Miss Navajo, you must butcher an entire sheep in an hour, all in the traditional way, cook traditional dishes and complete interviews in both Navajo and English,” she said. “As the titleholder, you are responsible for visiting communities in our tribal lands in New Mexico, Colorado and Utah, making sure people feel like their concerns are being heard and they matter.”

Parrish’s run for Miss Navajo Nation is the latest milestone in what she says is a lifelong commitment to public service that she began cultivating at The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science from the School of Politics and Global Studies and a minor in educational studies from the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College in 2018.

Forging a new path

A passion for community service initially attracted Parrish to education. She came to ASU as a Gates Millennium Scholar with plans to teach in a bilingual Navajo-English classroom. But when she was unable to complete her teacher aid training with Navajo-speaking students in her final year, she began rethinking her life’s path, and her major.

A call to a new kind of service came to her at the 2015 Navajo Nation Fair, watching the then-Miss Navajo Nation pass on her title. 

“She delivered her entire farewell speech in Navajo and talked about how all her work in the role had been for the benefit of her people,” Parrish said. “To me, her humility was such a display of community and public service — I think that day I realized that maybe one day I could actually be Miss Navajo, too.” 

The speech inspired Parrish to start engaging her community through public policy and government. Back at ASU, it marked the beginning of a new degree path in political science and a host of achievements over the next few years. 

In the fall semester of 2015, she earned a CAP/Udall ScholarshipThe CAP/Udall Scholarship was created by the Central Arizona Project and the Udall Foundation that funds students who are interested in careers focused on the environment, American Indian health care, or tribal public policy, and who display leadership potential, academic achievement, and a record of public service. and transitioned into a political science major at The College. Outside the classroom, she worked as a page intern in the Arizona State Senate for three years before taking a position as a public information officer for Arizona State Treasurer Kimberly Yee.

smiling woman kneeling next to smiling, seated elderly woman

Parrish during a visit with Navajo elders at a community center on the Navajo Nation. Photo Courtesy of Shaandiin Parrish

Melding tradition and service

Parrish said working for and meeting state representatives made her feel part of something larger than herself. 

“At 24, I was the youngest Native American working at the Arizona State Senate on a daily basis, and it made me see how much impact one person can make,” she said. “The College played a huge role in my finding that internship and advancing professionally, especially during a hard transition changing majors.” 

Still, living far away from the community she’d long planned on serving was taking its toll. The Miss Navajo Nation pageant was one way to bridge the gap. And standing on stage to accept the title last month, Parrish felt like she was entering a new phase of her journey that was bringing her closer to home. Now living in the Navajo Nation’s capital Window Rock and having the opportunity to visit communities full time, Parrish said the role feels like a new phase that’s bringing her closer to home.

“People don’t realize that the Navajo Nation is kind of like its own country, and the Miss Navajo title has a huge influence on our people,” she said. “I’m coming to this position from a very different government setting, and I think one of the best parts is being able to serve my community directly, every day.” 

Now, she aims to help a new generation of Native Americans develop their futures while holding onto their history.

“I’d like to go back to ASU for a master’s degree and eventually law school,” she said. “As the eldest female child in my family, I’m also responsible for maintaining our Navajo traditions — I think my biggest motivation now is making sure I do that for my siblings, while also being someone who they can look up to in the world.”

Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


ASU Law launches nation’s first Indian Gaming and Tribal Self-Governance programs

Lawrence S. Roberts and Ann Marie Bledsoe Downes join as founding faculty

October 1, 2019

The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University has announced that it will be the first law school in the United States to offer programs focused in both Indian Gaming and Tribal Self-Governance as part of its Indian Legal Program (ILP).

Tribal initiatives have successfully addressed challenges that echo from repudiated federal policies. ASU Law is supporting those tribal initiatives by developing advanced degree programs focused on Indian gaming and tribal self-governance for professionals who desire an advanced, concentrated curriculum in these areas. photo of Lawrence Roberts and Ann Marie Bledsoe Downes Ann Marie Bledsoe Downes and Lawrence S. Roberts join as founding faculty of ASU Law's new Indian Gaming and Tribal Self-Governance Programs. Download Full Image

The Indian Gaming Program is anticipated to provide an in-depth curriculum focused on the legal developments that led to Indian gaming, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the role of tribal and federal regulatory agencies, tribal-state compacts, intergovernmental agreements and evolving trends in Indian gaming.

The Tribal Self-Governance Program is anticipated to include courses focused on federal Indian policy, the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, planning for assumption of federal programs, strategic planning and administration, negotiation of contracts and compacts with the federal government, the HEARTH Act and evolving trends in tribal self-governance.

“ASU Law is committed to serving the educational needs of our tribal nations,” said ASU Law Dean and Professor of Law Douglas Sylvester. “With the addition of our Indian Gaming and Tribal Self-Governance programs, we are building upon our world-class Indian Legal Program to ensure that our students receive the best possible education and real-world experience while they are here.”

The Indian Gaming and Tribal Self-Governance programs will equip professionals with a background in federal Indian law and comprehensive courses designed to help graduates seamlessly integrate into the job of their choice.

Graduates may serve as in-house counsel, senior or mid-level executives for tribes or tribal entities, tribal elected officials responsible for overseeing these aspects of their tribal operations and other professionals with careers that intersect with these areas, such as congressional staff and federal, state and local employees.

The programs will be offered as a degree emphasis in the Master of Legal Studies (MLS) degree program and Master of Laws (LLM) degree program, as well as a certificate.

“History has also shown that tribes can better meet the needs of their citizens when the federal trustee works to promote tribal sovereignty and self-determination. We believe that both our programs will provide critical education for those working for the tribes or in Indian gaming,” said Sylvester.

Founding faculty include Professors of Practice Lawrence S. Roberts and Ann Marie Bledsoe Downes.

Roberts was appointed to a position within the Indian Affairs office in the Department of the Interior by President Barack Obama in 2012 and served in a variety of leadership positions while there. As the deputy assistant secretary for policy and economic development, Roberts supervised the Office of Self-Governance, the Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development and the Office of Indian Gaming. Roberts later served as the principal deputy assistant secretary for Indian Affairs, managing all Indian Affairs programs and offices, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education.

Roberts served as the acting assistant secretary for Indian Affairs and led Indian Affairs for the final year of the Obama administration. Over the course of the Obama administration, Indian Affairs restored over 500,000 acres of homelands to tribal nations; implemented the HEARTH Act to promote tribal sovereign authority over the leasing of tribal lands; revised regulations to advance tribal self-governance and self-determination in the areas of the Indian Child Welfare Act, land into trust, the granting of rights-of-way across Indian lands; the leasing of Indian lands; and reorganized the Bureau of Indian Education.

photo of Lawrence S. Roberts

Professor Lawrence S. Roberts speaks at the Indian Legal Program's Welcome Dinner earlier this year.

“Professor Roberts’ depth of experience in leading Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior during the Obama administration, serving as general counsel of the National Indian Gaming Commission, and work as a trial attorney at the United States Department of Justice will provide students with the insights and skills needed to excel in an increasingly competitive job market,” said Patty Ferguson-Bohnee, professor and faculty director for ASU Law’s Indian Legal Program and director of the Indian Legal Clinic.

Roberts, a member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, grew up in an urban environment, and it wasn’t until law school that he fully appreciated how federal Indian policies directly affected his family.

“College was not a certainty, but it was a goal. It was a goal instilled by my grandmother, Maxine Elm, who earned her college degree after raising 10 children. She went on to work for a university, helping Native students earn their degrees,” said Roberts. “My journey to ASU Law was not a straight line, but a series of learnings from setbacks and preparing for opportunities. My personal journey would not have been possible without the foresight, support and assistance of Oneida leadership, encouragement from my family, and the countless professionals and mentors that have guided me every step of the way.”  

“I look forward to educating the next generation of Native professionals that stand upon the shoulders of those that have come before us,” Roberts said.

Roberts is joined by Bledsoe Downes, the executive vice president of community impact and engagement at Ho-Chunk, Inc. Bledsoe Downes previously served as the executive director of ASU Law’s Indian Legal Program and, prior to that role, served as the director of graduate programs for the ILP. She subsequently served as the deputy assistant secretary for policy and economic development for Indian affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior. She also served as acting director of the Bureau of Indian Education.

“We are beyond thrilled to have Professor Bledsoe Downes on our faculty. Her passion to teach and her vast experience bring so much to our new Indian Gaming and Tribal Self-Governance programs,” said Ferguson-Bohnee. “We look forward to seeing the programs’ impact on our Tribal communities.”

Bledsoe Downes also worked as policy advisor for tribal affairs for Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and also served as president of Little Priest Tribal College. She is from Winnebago, Nebraska, and is an enrolled member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. She also received her Juris Doctorate from ASU Law, a place she calls her second home.

“I'm from a small tribal community and a first-generation college student. Law school seemed completely out of reach,” said Bledsoe Downes. “However, as I saw my tribal leadership continually fighting for our rights, it was clear to me that law school was exactly what I needed to do if I wanted to advocate for my tribe. Tempe was the first place I lived other than the reservation where I grew up. I have been a part of ASU Law for over 25 years and to now join as faculty is an extreme honor.”

Bledsoe Downes is looking forward to working at the nation’s No. 1 school for innovation, an honor that Arizona State University has been named for the past five consecutive years.

“Academia has a hierarchy and that hierarchy is embedded in a very bureaucratic system. This can sometimes mean it is very rigid. President (Michael) Crow and Dean Sylvester are both leaders who encourage innovation and emphasize service to students and service to community. I think those commitments are the catalyst to change in the overall system. I'm excited to be a part of that,” said Bledsoe Downes.

photo of Ann Marie Bledsoe Downes

Professor Ann Marie Bledsoe Downes speaks at the Indian Legal Program's Welcome Dinner earlier this year.

When reflecting upon her own experience, she knows that her role in educating the next generation of legal professionals is critical.

“So much of what helped me in my career came as a result of an experienced leader who was willing to spend time with me and help me grow,” said Bledsoe Downes. “It is such an exciting time to be pursuing a legal education. There are large numbers of alumni and professionals with similar backgrounds who are willing to mentor and support you. There are still numerous challenges that tribal communities face, and law school requires a lot of sacrifice, but you will emerge as a stronger version of you and you will be ready to help tribes face those challenges.”

The Indian Gaming and Tribal Self-Governance programs build upon ASU Law’s nearly four decades of commitment to tribal nations through its Indian Legal Program.

“ILP’s success in educating Native students in a JD program is unmatched. Adding master's-level programs in gaming and self-governance will open the doors for a whole new range of professionals who do not intend to be practicing attorneys, save employers years of on-the-job training, and maximize tribal resources. Graduates will bring a higher level of expertise to tackle the challenges of today and the future,” said Roberts. “Teaching advanced courses in these areas complements and strengthens what I believe is already the best Indian law program in the country.”

Nicole Almond Anderson

Director of Communications, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law


Presidential candidate to make history with interview Wednesday at Cronkite School

September 25, 2019

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock will sit down for a one-on-one interview tonight at the Indian Country Today headquarters in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. It is the first time a presidential candidate will make a visit to a Native newsroom.

This election cycle has already made history in other ways: A record number of presidential candidates have made campaign stops on tribal lands, released official policies on their views of Indian affairs and mentioned Indian Country at various national debates.  Indian Country Today at the Cronkite School “If you look at the history of this country, the federal government has had a huge role in the lives of American Indians and Alaska Natives. Yet representation — whether running for office or visits from potential office holders — has been far less than adequate,” said Indian Country Today editor Mark Trahant. “But this year seems different.” Download Full Image

“To my knowledge, I don’t know of a presidential candidate who has visited a Native newspaper, radio station or television studio,” said Paul DeMain, former editor of News from Indian Country and a reporter who has covered Indian Country for more than 45 years. He is a citizen of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin. The Sequoyah National Research Center, home to the American Native Press Archives, also has no previous knowledge of such an event. 

This visit comes after an invitation for all presidential candidates to join Indian Country Today for an in-depth interview to talk all things Indian Country leading up to the 2020 election. The conversation will be moderated by editor Mark Trahant. 

“If you look at the history of this country, the federal government has had a huge role in the lives of American Indians and Alaska Natives. Yet representation — whether running for office or visits from potential office holders — has been far less than adequate,” Trahant said. “But this year seems different.”

Eleven candidates met with tribal leaders at a presidential forum in Iowa, Trahant noted, followed by the Indian Country Today interview with a presidential candidate at Cronkite.

“This is huge. It’s a chance to frame the discussion before the election,” he said. “And it’s worth noting that many of the candidates we talk with could end up in different areas of the government, including the cabinet. So it really does raise the discourse for Native Americans.”

Indian Country Today moved this summer into the Cronkite School.

“Indian Country Today is making tremendous strides under Mark’s leadership toward deeper and better coverage of Native American communities,” said Cronkite School Dean Christopher Callahan. “We are very proud of our partnership with Mark, and there will be more to come as we continue to expand and intensify our focus on Native American news coverage and bringing more Native Americans to America’s newsrooms.”

Bullock was one of the 11 candidates to participate at last month’s Frank LaMere Presidential Forum on Native Issues. He made his remarks and answered questions from a panel of tribal leaders via video conference call. Bullock pointed to his track record working with Montana’s seven tribal nations. He also appeared at the Meskwaki Powwow in July. 

“Gov. Bullock is looking forward to talking about his partnership with tribal governments and his state legislature’s Indian Caucus, and the real progress they have been able to make together — on health care, economic development, public safety, cultural preservation and more,” said Nathan Stein, spokesman for the Bullock campaign

Bullock is one of a handful of candidates who addressed Indian Country recently. He has been actively campaigning in Indian Country, highlighting his work as governor. He granted funding for language preservation programs, worked to combat Native youth suicide and vowed to investigate the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women.  

Director of communications, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and Arizona PBS

ASU students, faculty recognized for outstanding work in planning

Members from the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning awarded for their work with cities, indigenous communities

September 19, 2019

From a project focused on mobile home parks to work with indigenous communities, members from the Arizona State University School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning were recognized for their work at the annual meeting for the American Planning Association’s Arizona Chapter. Held on Sept. 12 in Tucson, the meeting brought together planners and researchers from across Arizona and included a moment to recognize the work being done around the state.

Among the winners this year was Maggie Dellow, a recent graduate of the Master of Urban and Environmental Planning program, who was selected as the winner for the student project category. Her project, “Mobile Home Parks and the Future of Affordable Housing in Apache Junction,” was the capstone that she completed as part of her master’s degree program. Mobile home communities in Apache Junction, much like the one pictured, were the focus of Maggie Dellow's work that was recognized for outstanding work by a student by the American Planning Association’s Arizona Chapter. Download Full Image

For her project, Dellow teamed up with the city of Apache Junction, located east of Phoenix along the border between Maricopa and Pinal County. The city is known for its picturesque views of the Superstition Mountains, but is also home to a community of winter-only visitors and 125 mobile home and recreational parks and subdivisions, which create approximately 50% of the city’s affordable housing. Many of these communities have found themselves in disrepair over the years, especially considering many were developed prior to the city’s incorporation in 1978. This has led to some communities being in floodplains or with site plans that wouldn’t be approved under today’s standards.

In her project, Dellow researched 28 different parks that were identified as high-priority. For each park, she analyzed its demographic trends, amenity access and site conditions, and she spoke with affordable housing developers and property owners within the parks to gain perspective of the needs of the community. As a result of her work, Dellow was able compile a comprehensive report she was able to provide to the city of Apache Junction to help shape upcoming decisions related to these communities.

“Maggie’s scholarly work provided extremely relevant data and concrete examples for the city to consider for the reuse or revitalization of these parks,” said Bryan Powell, city manager for Apache Junction, in his letter nominating Dellow for the award.

As a result of her outstanding work, the American Planning Association’s Arizona Chapter selected Dellow for the award for student project category. She also was hired by the city of Glendale as a full-time intern to help develop a mobile-home transition project. Staff from the city of Glendale were on hand in April 2019 when Dellow presented her project as part of the ASU Project Cities showcase.

Dellow wasn’t the only winner from the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning at this year’s meeting. She was joined by David Pijawka, professor of planning; Elizabeth Larson, senior lecturer of geography; and Jonathan Davis, PhD in geography student, who were selected as winners of the public outreach award for their work with an indigenous community to create a visioning report.

In April 2018, the team from the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning hosted a workshop to work alongside the Sif-Oidak District of the Tohono O’odham Nation. The focus was to create a visioning report that will be used in future planning efforts of the community that embraces the community’s values, including the unique physical, emotional and spiritual relationship the community has with the land.

The Sif-Oidak District of the Tohono O’odham Nation is comprised of nine communities located in the northern district of the Papago Reservation that spreads out over 700 square miles of the Sonoran Desert south of Casa Grande and southwest of Eloy. No district within the Papago Reservation has developed a land-use plan nor conducted a visioning workshop to develop a plan, making this effort with the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning the first of its kind for the Tohono O’odham Nation. This effort provided the technical and professional support to assist the communities in developing short- and long-term goals.

“It was an empowering planning experience for our community members that pushed the communities to work together and consider the needs within our community and think critically on how to meet those needs and achieve our district objectives,” said Alex Cruz, Sif-Oidak district chairman, in his nomination letter for the group’s efforts.

“We are optimistic for the future and will work to use this report as a guiding document for the future of Sif-Oidak District and its communities.”

This wasn’t the first time that Davis and Pijawka have been recognized for their work with tribal communities. They have also been recognized for a project where they worked alongside the Navajo Nation’s Dilkon Chapter to complete a community land-use plan.

Manager, Marketing and Communication, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning


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Cultural pride by design

September 18, 2019

ASU engineering alum Loren Aragon once engineered military shock absorbers; now he’s dazzling the fashion world with inventive designs honoring Native American culture

The gowns feature bold, geometric patterns that wrap around the body and turn people into works of art. Look closely at the sharp lines and vibrant colors — the designs mirror those found on pottery from the Acoma Pueblo of New Mexico.

Fashion designer Loren Aragon, ’04 BSE in mechanical engineering, grew up in that pueblo and proudly brings his heritage to life through these creations. And he’s just as proud at being named the 2018 Couture Designer of the Year at Phoenix Fashion Week — the first Native American to receive that honor.

Aragon is the CEO and designer at ACONAV, a Native American couture fashion company based in Phoenix. He launched the company in 2016 with his wife, Valentina, who also attended ASU and hails from the Navajo Nation. The ACONAV (Acoma and Navajo) website describes its designs as celebrating the strength and empowerment of women through positive expressions that tie culture to modern style.

Interestingly, 10 years ago, Aragon was a mechanical engineer designing shock absorbers for military vehicles. And while a student, he studied robotics and designed prosthetics.

“Art and technology have always been in my background,” Aragon said. “I’m intrigued by how things are created. My grandfather was a mechanic who worked with gears and got dirt under his fingernails, and my mother was an artist and art teacher who came from a culture that was very active in pottery art. I’m like a reverse engineer — I research the past to understand how the origin of things affects the world today. My goal is to preserve our culture through fashion design.”

His work is attracting the kind of attention reserved for names on labels featured in chic boutiques. One of Aragon’s unique pottery-inspired couture creations was chosen to be displayed at Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida. His work also turned heads at the 2019 Tony Awards, thanks to a striking gown he designed for Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, vice president of cultural affairs and executive director of ASU Gammage.

Jennings-Roggensack, the only Arizonan eligible to vote for Broadway’s highest awards, wore an eye-catching pattern Aragon calls “shattered details” printed on deep red cloth.

“The geometric pattern of fine-line details suggests the beginning of something new, like clouds breaking to produce rain,” he said. “The color red, like a splash of color through our blood lines, is an homage to my ancestors. Red also represents the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, and I’m proud to honor them.”

The dress is accented by a cape that functions as a scarf, which is a nod to an accessory girls in the Acoma Pueblo wear to symbolize that they’ve become women. Plus, the cape playfully suggests a superhero, Aragon adds.

“Our culture is based on a matrilineal system that honors the power and strength of women,” he said. “We celebrate that women create life, and I emphasize that fact in my designs, that we look up to women.”

Jennings-Roggensack, who makes a point to always wear a gown to the Tonys that was created by an Arizona designer, says what impressed her about Aragon was he took time to get to know her before sitting down to the drawing board.

“I admired that he wanted to know who I was as a person,” she said. “Later, when he showed me the design, I immediately fell in love with it. It had a vertical feel that sweeps you upward. I would love to wear his other designs.”

After traveling to Santa Fe to explore Native artists’ work for inclusion in Disney’s Epcot Center, Jackie Herrera, assistant producer for Walt Disney Imagineering, chose to showcase Aragon in the Creating Tradition Exhibit of the American Heritage Gallery. The exhibit focuses on contemporary artists who use historical artifacts as inspiration for their work.

“I thought Loren’s work was very inspired, and asked him to design a dress based on one of the pots the museum owned,” Herrera said. “The dress he made is beautiful. It’s truly art, which is a word not usually used to describe fashion.”

Aragon admits it was “a big surprise” to be asked to contribute work to the Epcot exhibit. After researching the tradition behind the creation on that specific piece of pottery, he decided to marry Acoma’s matriarchal culture with Disney’s princess culture, and create something that could be worn by Cinderella, Belle (“Beauty and the Beast”) or any Disney heroine.

“I listened to the voice of the past to create something that echoes into today,” Aragon said.

The list of influences stretches throughout his life. His first mentors were his mother, Hilda, a seamstress and an artist, and his uncle, Joseph Salvador, a metalsmith who taught him jewelry making and how to use his artistic skills to create pieces that celebrate the vitality in the Native way of life.

He also credits Thomas Sugar, a professor at ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, for teaching how mechanical designs drawn on paper could be brought to life. Sugar remembers Aragon as “a very project-focused person. Loren took his creativity and problem-solving skills and today has created some beautifully designed clothes.”

Reflecting on his time at ASU, Aragon recalls designing jewelry and greeting cards to help pay for school.

“When I came to ASU,” he said, “I was an only child who felt sheltered, and school helped me gain the confidence to open my eyes to a different world and appreciate my culture more. It gave me confidence in what I was doing.”

What’s next for Aragon?

“I’m previewing designs inspired by rain,” he said. “Rain is the Pueblo culture’s source of life. Our ancestors prayed for rain, and my new collection will honor the sky, cloud formations and lightning.”

Written by Benjamin Gleisser, who has profiled Dick Clark, Michael Jordan, Oliver Platt and other entertainment newsmakers for publications worldwide. This story originally appeared in the fall 2019 issue of ASU Thrive magazine.

Top photo: Loren Aragon's gowns feature bold, geometric patterns that wrap around the body and turn people into works of art. The designs mirror those found on pottery from the Acoma Pueblo of New Mexico. Photo by Jarod Opperman/ASU

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Water experts share challenges, optimism as climate change bears down

Would you drink treated waste water? ASU conference tackles the big issues.
August 27, 2019

Congressional Conference addresses one of Arizona's biggest problems

Arizona is facing a colossal challenge in managing its water supply — especially with the uncertainty of climate change effects. But several experts at an Arizona State University conference said there are reasons to be optimistic.

“We can’t go from denying there are challenges to being fatalistic,” said Peter Schlosser, vice president and vice provost of the Global Futures Laboratory at ASU.

“That would be the wrong response. We have to trust we have the capacity to find solutions.”

Many of those potential solutions, as well as the scope of the problems, were discussed by the state’s top policymakers, scientists and influencers on Monday at “Revolutionizing Arizona’s Water Future,” the 2019 Congressional Conference sponsored by ASU's Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development and Office of Government and Community Engagement.

“Today’s conference focused on the need to work in collective, collaborative and innovative fashion to proactively address Arizona’s short and long-term water futures needs,” said Sethuraman Panchanathan, executive vice president of Knowledge Enterprise and chief research and innovation officer at ASU.

“There was a genuine consensus among participants that we must find creative, entrepreneurial approaches to solving what amounts to a global grand challenge – that of a safe, reliable, water supply.

“There’s a recognition that we can’t look back 10 years from now and say, ‘We should have brought together the right people, partners and teams to find the right solutions a long time ago.’ We’re doing it now,” Panchanathan said.

Schlosser put the water problem in context.

“In the water world, the main challenges are twofold: One is we do not have enough water going into the future to fulfill our needs, so there’s a problem in quantity,” he said.

“If you look at satellite pictures over time, it shows we’re overusing groundwater. It’s a worldwide phenomenon and we know these waters we are destroying were formed millions of years ago, so we will not be able to replenish them at the pace we are destroying.”

The other problem is quality.

“We are soaking our planet with chemicals and many find their way into the water,” he said. “If you go to the deepest ocean, you’ll find chlorofluorocarbons. Just recently there was a report that microplastics are in any kind of snow sample you take from the Arctic.”

Technology is one answer.

“You can look at some of the accomplishments in the reuse of water, and in the decrease of use of water in development,” he said. “But we are sometimes looking at the technosphere as the ultimate way forward but we have to mobilize society will so new solutions are embraced.

“So people are looking at changing the way they live but not by sacrificing too much, just different. Life has always changed.”

Here are the main takeaways from the conference:

There’s good and bad news in Arizona

Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at ASU

“An important fact for us all to keep in mind is that currently, statewide demand is slightly lower than it was in the mid-1950s. We’ve grown our economy 17 or 18 times and our population eight times since the mid-1950s and we’re using slightly less water.” 

Ted Cooke, general manager of the Central Arizona Project

“We think of water augmentation as a completely new supply, like ocean desalination or cloud seeding. And we’re working on that so we don’t get caught by surprise when things are dire. But there’s a lot of efficiencies that can be gained with the supply we have. We have magnificent infrastructure in this state, the Central Arizona Project and the Salt River Project are two of them. A little bit of federal funding could interconnect them. We have millions of acre feet of water that’s been put underground for future use and we don’t have the recovery infrastructure to use all of it.” 

11 tribes have not reached a water claim settlement

Dennis Patch, chairman of the Colorado River Indian Tribes

“We’ve seen several rivers in Arizona go dry and that’s our first priority. We’ve always lived on the river and we’ve always been farmers. We want to develop our full water rights and we also want federal legislation that permits us to lease water to Arizona. Right now we only have the right to store water in Lake Mead.

“My parents and grandparents talked about the salmon that used to come up the Colorado River, but I was born after the dams. Our name for ourselves is ‘people by the water.’"

Stephen Roe Lewis, governor of the Gila River Indian Community

“First, we want to be sure our current and future farmers have enough water, and second we want to restore portions of the Gila River on our land. When our Gila River was diverted over 100 years ago, that literally pushed us to the brink of extinction. We almost died out as a people but we didn’t because we persevered. So holding water in the highest regard is one of our most important value systems.

“Tribes need to be at the table when important water decisions are being made. When you look at this Drought Contingency Plan, tribes weren’t there at the beginning. All the players, including SRPSalt River Project, one of Arizona's largest utilities., knew that potential shortages were happening around 2013, and we were not even told by federal authorities until 2015 and we didn’t get invited as a community until 2016.” 

Stephen Roe Lewis, governor of the Gila River Indian Community, said that restoring the Gila River is one of the main water priorities for his tribe. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Jane Russell-Winiecki, chairwoman of the Yavapai Apache Tribe

“We’ve been working on this since the middle of the 1980s. You can imagine the hours and the financial burden it’s cost us as well as the state and federal governments. We’re on the Verde River, which is one of the few perennially running rivers left in Arizona. We don’t want a paper settlement. We want wet water. We’re trying to protect the river, protect us and the neighboring communities so you get wet water down into this area.” 

Sarah Porter, director of the Kyle Center for Water Policy at ASU

“The reality is that many communities in Arizona are growing on supplies of water that are in dispute, so they don’t have certainty about their water.” 

Forest management is crucial to the water supply

Chuck Podolak, director of water rights and contracts for SRP

“Our ponderosa forests are too dense and they’re the headwaters of the water supplies. It’s a matter of getting the U.S. Forest Service to work with the contractors to get it done. Indian water rights and forest treatment are two things that are unacceptably slow. There are way too many trees in our forests and getting them out is one of the highest priorities for in-state water supplies.”  

Clint Chandler, deputy director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources

“I was immersed in this issue when I was working with Senators (Jon) Kyl and (Jeff) Flake. We were frustrated when we were trying to encourage the U.S. Forest Service to work with White Mountain Apache Forest Industries, because it’s essential to get these acres cleared, but they were letting these companies wither."

Ted Cooke, general manager, Central Arizona Project

“Are we on the verge of curtailing access to public lands because we have to address the danger of having people there? Our regional lake is Lake Pleasant. When there’s a fire, lots of junk washes into that lake — debris from the fires, dirt and ashes."

Abe Springer, professor of hydrogeology at Northern Arizona University

“We recently did a survey of Phoenix residents and they are significantly willing to pay for forest restoration. There’s been a change in thinking — that our watersheds are infrastructure that needs planning, like pipes. This was after the Schultz Fire in 2010. In the general election that year, we put a bond where the city of Flagstaff invested $10 million in the watershed." 

Business and industry have to be involved

Todd Brady, director of global affairs and sustainability at Intel Corp

“Water is critical to making semiconductors. We broke ground on our Ocotillo facility, one of the largest semiconductor manufacturing plants in the world, and we made a partnership with the city of Chandler to build a reverse-osmosis plant where our wastewater went to be treated to be reused by the city or put into the aquifer.

“More recently we set a goal to restore 100% of our water by 2025. Our idea was for every gallon of water we took in, would we put a gallon back. We’re a bunch of engineers and the only way to get to that 100% was to do partnerships across the state of Arizona to replenish the watershed.”  

Paul Westerhoff, Fulton Chair of Environmental Engineering at ASU

“We commissioned a survey of a variety of industrial water users in Maricopa County and … looked at hospitals, hospitality, breweries, small businesses. Over 70% identified water as critical to their business but they didn’t really understand the true cost to what they were spending beyond their water bill. They didn’t feel that industry has a common place to go to talk about concerns. We can start getting these industries together to talk about best practices around water.”  

John Kmiec, deputy director at Tucson Water

“In southern Arizona, it’s a changing scene. We had water reclamation to support the golf industry. What we’ve seen in last 10 years is the golf industry has regressed. Now we have all this capital investment to move communities’ non-potable water to all four corners to serve the irrigation needs of a once prosperous industry. So one thing Tucson is doing is thinking how we entice other industries to come in to reuse the water and the existing infrastructure.”  

Water and energy are closely linked

Benjamin Ruddell, director of the School of Informatics, Computing and Cyber Systems at Northern Arizona University

“The last 40 years of research and development have made it possible to generate energy in ways that don’t use much water. We’ve moved from coal-fired and nuclear plants that use huge amounts of water into bio-fueled power systems. Solar and wind don’t use much water if they’re done properly. Those areas are far more valuable in Arizona than in other places because we’re so water challenged.”

Kim Ogden, director of the Institute for Energy Solutions at the University of Arizona

“It takes a lot of energy to purify water. We’re using very concentrated solar systems to make purified water and energy at the same time. Data systems have a lot of wasted heat. How do we take that wasted heat to do something like purify water? Those are examples where we integrate energy and water.”

Arizona’s congressional delegation can ease the way

U.S. Sen. Martha McSally

“Not every issue is a federal issue. Arizona did a lot of the heavy lifting with the drought contingency plan … and that was critical because otherwise we would have had a heavy-handed approach coming from the feds. As many issues come to me that I’m asked to solve, I ask, ‘Does it literally take an act of Congress to fix?’ And in this case, it did, after all the hard work at the state level.

“We introduced the legislation and six days later we passed it out of the house and senate and that’s record time in Washington, D.C. If you turn on cable news you would think that kind of bipartisan work doesn’t happen in Washington, D.C., but it happens all the time, especially on issues related to water.

“One issue I heard about in Yuma is that some of our water infrastructure is more than 50 years old. In other places in the world, if you make a long-term investment in something, you can pay it back over many years. But because the way this works with federal policy, the water districts … literally have to recoup those costs that year. The only way they can do that is to charge their users more for water in that year. That’s not a good model.

“Sen. Sinema and I introduced this bill together. This legislation provides more flexibility in a new funding mechanism for investments to be made up front and paid over time with interest and not passed on to the water users in just one year.

“Every time I hear anyone talking about a way forward on the bipartisan infrastructure legislation, I’m always jumping up and down, saying ‘What about water infrastructure?’ The challenges they have in New Jersey and Massachusetts are not the same challenges we have here in the West related to our water."  

Arizona citizens are key to moving forward

Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at ASU

“There’s still a lot of give in the system. I would walk though my Arcadia neighborhood, looking at the flood irrigation and seeing the citrus trees think, ‘What a waste of water.’ But I’ve come to see places like my neighborhood as the future. All that is done with renewable supplies. Maybe someday, people in my neighborhood will take the opportunity to use less water so it can be used elsewhere and they will be rewarded for that.” 

Paul Westerhoff, Fulton Chair of Environmental Engineering

“It’s figuring out what safe water is and this bigger idea of how we make safe water — not from a scientific epidemiologic perspective, but from people you talk to every day. Would you drink treated waste water?” 

Top image: U.S. Sen. Martha McSally attended the "Revolutionizing Arizona's Water Future" Congressional Conference on Monday at the Memorial Union at ASU. She told the crowd that water legislation is frequently a bipartisan effort in Washington, D.C. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


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Echo From the Buttes: Old tradition, new name

August 22, 2019

‘A’ Mountain signature event gets a makeover and a fresh coat of paint

Each August, Arizona State University's first-year students paint the gold A on “A” Mountain white to signify a fresh start to the school year. It's an activity that has been around longer than the university has been called ASU.

This year, however, the tradition has a new name.

Previously called “Whitewash the A,” the freshman welcome event will now be called “Echo From the Buttes” — wording taken from ASU's fight song.

The name change had been considered for several years, but when the student-led Alliance of Indigenous Peoples (AIP) and the ASU Student Alumni Association met last year with goals for preserving Hayden Butte — considered a sacred place for local tribesThese tribes include the Ak-Chin Indian Community, Tohono O'odham Nation, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and the Gila River Indian Community. — they came to a mutual agreement that a change was needed. Negative connotations of the term “whitewash” had raised some concerns.

The Tempe campus is located on American Indian ancestral homelands, including the Akimel O'odham (Pima) and Pee Posh (Maricopa) peoples, and the university continuously seeks to connect with tribal communities.

“Indigenous belief systems are holistic and value harmony and balance with everything around us, including animals, plants, water and mountains,” said Jacob Moore, associate vice president for tribal relations at ASU. “Hayden Butte is a place of reverence and respect for our tribal communities.”

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

Hayden Butte — also known as “A” Mountain — is sacred to local tribal communities, including the four southern tribes as the butte is a part of their ancestral homelands, Moore said.

Over the past year, the city of Tempe has removed a 30-foot communications tower, a broadcast house, foundation and a chain link fence from “A” Mountain in an effort to return the butte to a more natural state.

This year’s Echo From the Buttes will start at 8 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 24. It will include an opening indigenous blessing, a land acknowledgement and a kiosk of historical information and photos of the butte. Last year's event drew about 4,000 incoming freshmen.

“In collaboration with the Alliance of Indigenous Peoples, we felt that the name ‘Echo From the Buttes’ was a better representation of the evolution of this event, while maintaining this storied tradition,” said Robert Drake, president of the ASU Student Alumni Association, which has historically been in charge of maintaining and preserving the butte. “'Echo From the Buttes' is a tribute to our fight song, and what better way to celebrate joining the Sun Devil family than by putting a fresh coat of white paint on our iconic ‘A’, symbolizing a new beginning.”

The ASU tradition has lasted for more than 80 years and represents the start of the new academic year. It’s one of the first things incoming freshmen do to feel ingrained in the university and into traditions at ASU. The “A” is painted gold again before the first home football game.

The Tempe Normal School class of 1918 was responsible for installing the first letter on the butte. When the school changed its name to Tempe State Teachers College in 1925, students retained one side of the “N” to form the stem of the “T.”

The school later changed its name to Arizona State Teachers College, and in 1938, the letter “A” was installed on the butte. In 1952, a bomb blast destroyed the letter. The present “A” stands 60 feet tall and was built of reinforced steel and concrete in 1955.

echo from the buttes

Thousands of first-year students are expected to attend the Echo From the Buttes event on Saturday, Aug. 24.

When the Alumni Association and AIP met, they had a goal to make sure that Sun Devils and the community knew the history, the traditions and the importance of making sure it’s taken care of.

“We didn’t want to take away anyone’s tradition, but Native peoples have had our own traditions way before ASU was ever a campus,” said Savannah Nelson, president of the AIP and a senior nutrition major with the College of Health Solutions. “Putting this into perspective for students is important because the campus and 'A' Mountain sits on ancestral lands. Now we all get to experience a new tradition together.”

Nelson has also drafted a document acknowledging and educating people about the history of the land, which she will read before the event’s kickoff.

AIP member Nazhoona Betsuie, a junior in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, said she was pleasantly surprised when the Student Alumni Association so readily agreed to the name change.

“We weren’t really expecting much and they gave this request great consideration, which really earned our respect,” Betsuie said. “They were willing to do something significant to address our concerns even though this is a signature event for freshmen.” 

If you go

What: Echo From the Buttes.

When: 8 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 24.

Where: Corner of College Avenue and Fifth Street in Tempe.

Details: eoss.asu.edu/welcome

Top photo: An Arizona State University freshman flashing an ASU pitcthfork on Tempe's “A” Mountain in August 2018. Previously called “Whitewash the A,” the freshman welcome event will now be called “Echo From the Buttes.” Photo courtesy of the Arizona Board of Regents.

First Native American female dean and prominent Indian law trailblazer to teach at ASU Law

August 16, 2019

The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University is honored to welcome Stacy L. Leeds as the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Distinguished Visiting Indian Law Professor. Leeds is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and carved her place in history when she was named the dean of the University of Arkansas School of Law in 2011, becoming the first Native American woman to be appointed to such position. Currently, she is the vice chancellor for economic development, dean emeritus and a professor at the University of Arkansas, and she will teach federal Indian law this fall as part of ASU Law’s Indian Legal Program.

“We are very honored to have Vice Chancellor Stacy Leeds as the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Distinguished Visiting Indian Law Professor,” said Patty Ferguson-Bohnee, professor and faculty director for ASU Law’s Indian Legal Program and director of the Indian Legal Clinic. “We believe she will be a great addition to our team this fall and a wonderful resource for our students. From the Indian Child Welfare Act to opioid litigation to tribal agriculture, she has combined scholarship and practice to advance and defend Indian rights.” photo of Stacy Leeds at NALSA Moot Court Finals Stacy Leeds, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community distinguished visiting Indian law professor with Judge William Canby Jr. (at left) and Larry Roberts, professor of practice at ASU Law at the NALSA Moot Court Finals. Download Full Image

Leeds has a passion and dedication to Indian law, and a determination to help inform Indian law policy and the next generation of lawyers.

However, she did not always know this would be her path. As a child she grew up in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and went on to become an all-state basketball player for Muskogee High School. She then enrolled at Washington University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree while also participating as a student athlete playing basketball and tennis.

“I knew I wanted to go to law school when a lightbulb moment occurred during my junior year of my undergraduate studies,” Leeds said. “I took a grad school course in social work where the final project involved mock testimony before Congress on Indian child welfare issues. I was hooked by the process, the research and the oral advocacy.”

She obtained two law degrees — a Master of Laws degree from the University of Wisconsin and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Tulsa — and later obtained an MBA while a professor at the University of Kansas.

Currently, she divides her time between downtown Fayetteville near the University of Arkansas campus and Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the capital of the Cherokee Nation. With her visiting professorship at ASU Law, she will travel to its Downtown Phoenix campus throughout the fall semester.

“ASU Law is at the top of the Indian law field, and it’s an honor to be a part of the program. It is also very meaningful that the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community continues to invest in law students by providing new opportunities and access to new mentors,” Leeds said.

ASU Law’s Indian Legal Program was established in 1988 and, through its connections to each of Arizona’s federally recognized 22 tribes, is home to one of the highest concentrations of Native American students and Indian law students in the nation. Leeds joins a team of other nationally recognized faculty who are leading scholars in their fields.

photo of Stacy Leeds

Stacy L. Leeds, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Distinguished Visiting Indian Law Professor at ASU Law.

Leeds has been connected to ASU Law for many years. Several of the students she has taught in prelaw programs or otherwise mentored have started their careers at ASU Law. Leeds also delivered the keynote at ASU Law’s William C. Canby Jr. Lecture Series in 2013, and she served as a championship-round judge at the National Native American Law Student Association (NNALSA) Moot Court Competition when ASU Law hosted the annual event in 2018.

“I look forward to getting to know the students and actively participating in their professional development,” Leeds said. “I know that I will also enjoy the full scale of the Indian Law program, which will include interaction with tribes and the Indian law bar in the region.”

Leeds has also made a significant impact in the Native legal community. Previously, she has served as a justice for the Cherokee Nation’s Supreme Court as the first woman and youngest person to be appointed. Leeds also served as a judge for six other Native nations, as a member of the Board of Directors of the National American Indian Court Judges Association, and as chair of the American Bar Association Judicial Division’s Tribal Courts Council.

“I have had the greatest professional privilege anyone could ever hope for: repeatedly being in jobs where I felt like I was in exactly the right place at the right time. When that type of alignment occurs, that’s the point of maximum impact,” Leeds said. “I have been fortunate to experience that many times, not limited to, but certainly including my time as a law school dean and as justice on the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court.”

When further reflecting on her time as the first female Native American law dean, she is proud and encouraged to see additional women ascending to higher roles in academia.

“It was truly an honor with big responsibility, and I am so thrilled that 'only' Native woman has now been amended to 'first' Native woman with the recent appointment of my colleague Dean Elizabeth Kronk at the University of Utah. There will be many to follow and I will celebrate them all. I am keenly aware that my opportunities have been possible because other people opened doors for me and took chances on me,” Leeds said.

Opportunities are exactly what she hopes future law students take advantage of during their time in law school. Her advice is simple: keep an open mind and seize every opportunity as to where your career may take you.

“Studying law will give you immeasurable skills that can translate across so many endeavors. If you embrace that, you will never be bored,” Leeds said.

To fellow Native women studying law, she notes that most Native law students are majority women and increasingly so.

“It will take a few more years for that trend to fundamentally change the landscape of Indian country, but soon most of the Native lawyers will be women in the legal profession and by consequence, many more women will be tribal leaders,” Leeds said. “My advice for Native women is this: Get ready— it’s going to be a wild ride. You can’t always control the timing of your opportunities, but you can control how well-prepared you’ll be.”

Nicole Almond Anderson

Director of Communications, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law