GRIC-Urban Members Association celebrates 18th Anniversary in Phoenix
August 4, 2017
Thomas R. Throssell
Gila River Indian News
The Gila River Indian Community Urban Members Association (GRIC-UMA) held its 18th Anniversary celebration at their headquarters in Phoenix, Ariz., on the morning of July 29.
The celebration was attended by over 100 Community members and a host of special guests and presenters, including: GRIC-UMA founding member Bernice Nelson, the Gila River Basket Dancers, District 5 Representative Robert Stone, District 1 Representative Joey Whitman, GRIC Community Manager Pamela Thompson, staff from GRIC’s Land Use Planning and Zoning Department including Director Dr. Kimberly Antone, and GRIC Department of Education Assistant Culture Coordinator Tammy Histia.
Non-profit organization, Three Precious Miracles, was also at the event, handing out 100 backpacks, 100 pairs of shoes, and 100 hygiene and dental kits.
Anthony Newkirk, GRIC-UMA Chairman said, “They did that for us last year and it was a big success, because a lot of kids have already started school or are starting school this week.”
Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis, who was out town attending a GRIC Los Angeles Urban Members meeting in California, had a special video message presented at the event.
Keynote speaker Waylon Pahona, who runs the Healthy Active Natives Facebook page, talked about the resilience and perseverance of Native peoples. He spoke about his past struggle with weight and how many other Natives in Indian Country are struggling with similar issues.
“There were a lot of tears and hugs,” said Newkirk. “People went up to him after his speech and told him that they needed to hear [his] message and it was inspirational.”
What is GRIC-UMA?
GRIC-UMA provides services to urban tribal members, including free bus passes, assistance with utility bill payments, monthly elder breakfasts, and transportation to various Community events.
Newkirk said while providing services to urban members is a main focus of the association, they are also working on changing Gila River’s constitution, which currently states that any Community member who lives outside of the reservation for 20 years is automatically un-enrolled from the tribe.
“We really want to get that out of our constitution so that is something that we are going to be working with Council to get out of there,” he said.
In addition to changing the Community’s constitution, GRIC-UMA is dedicated to getting urban members more active in Community issues. To do this, they are getting urban members registered to vote so they can participate in how the Community forms its policies.
“We want more active urban members voting on constitutional issues, on members of council, those are the things we are focusing on,” he said.
If you are interested in joining GRIC-UMA or learning more about the association, visit www.gilariveruma.org, check out their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/GRICUMA, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (602) 244-9927.