Tribal leaders decry
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 19, 2005
Native American leaders visited the
state Capitol on Tuesday for the 10th-annual Indian Nations and Tribes
Legislative Day and expressed their displeasure with a proposal to make English
the official language of Arizona.
More than 500 representatives of Arizona's 22 Indian tribes filled the gallery
or sat among state legislators from their districts for introductions and
Sen. Bill Brotherton, D-Phoenix, urged them to express their opinion on House
Concurrent Resolution 2030, which would allow voters to declare English the
official state language. The bill will be considered during this year's
"In plain English, sir, we don't
like it, and we don't want it," said Kathy Kitcheyan, chairwoman of the San
Carlos Apache Tribe. "As the first Americans, we never asked anyone to speak a
Vivian Juan-Saunders, chairwoman of the Tohono O'odham Nation and president of
the Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona, called the measure "divisive, objectionable
She said it was reminiscent of government boarding schools where Indian children
suffered verbal and physical abuse for using their Native languages.
Juan-Saunders said Navajo Code Talkers and other Indian soldiers used their
native languages to pass coded messages, helping win World War II.
Both women received standing ovations.
Speaking at lunch on the Senate lawn, Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr., said he
was beginning to feel like tribes are an endangered species.
"One hundred years from now, 500 years from now, we want to be Navajo people,
talking in our Navajo language, telling our stories in our Navajo language,"
In 1988, Arizona voters approved an English-only law but the state Supreme Court
declared it unconstitutional because it violated free speech and
Former Sen. Jack Jackson Sr., honored as the father of the Indian Nations and
Tribes Legislative Day, said he organized the event to try to deal with problems
the tribes have, some dating back to drawing the state's borders without input
or consideration of tribal lands.
"Down by Tucson, they put half the Tohono O'odham community in Mexico," Jackson
said. "The Navajo Nation is in three different states."
Other tribes are split across county and city borders, causing jurisdictional
Leaders also addressed other concerns: growth, water, education, transportation
and health care.
Hopi President Wayne Taylor Jr. said his tribe faces an economic crisis with the
threatened closure of the Mohave Generating Station.
Water pumped from the Navajo aquifer is used to slurry coal from the Black Mesa
Coal Mine 273 miles to the generating station in Laughlin, Nev. But the Navajo
and Hopi tribes say the operation is depleting the aquifer and won't allow it to
continue after 2005.
"Some of our wells and springs are drying up already," Taylor said.
Without an alternate water source, possibly a pipeline from the Coconino
aquifer, the mine and generating station will be closed.
The Hopis receive $7.7 million, one-third its operating budget, from coal
Juan-Saunders said her tribe is concerned about high school seniors passing the
AIMS test, encroaching development of homes and shopping centers on reservation
borders and a lack of funding for homeland security expenses.
"We have 75 miles of national border and we've spent $7 million of our own
resources," she said.