Gov. Lewis receives NAFOA Lifetime Achievement Award
October 5, 2018
Roberto A. Jackson
Gila River Indian News
The Gila River Indian Community’s input was heard during the Native American Finance Officers Association’s 2018 NAFOA Fall Finance & Tribal Economies Conference in Santa Ana, New Mexico. The conference featured tribal finance, legal and energy experts at the two-day conference held at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa from Oct. 1-2. In addition to breakout sessions with GRIC-related speakers, the NAFOA Board of Directors presented its Lifetime Achievement Award to Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis during the 11th Annual Lifetime Achievement Awards Luncheon on Oct. 2.
Treasurer Robert Keller, General Counsel Linus Everling and Gila River Indian Community Utility Authority General Manager Leonard Gold were among the speakers on panels discussing finance and capital, financial management and economic development and planning.
Keller discussed Gila Crossing Community School’s unique funding model at the “New Community Development Financing – Health Care Centers, Energy Projects, & Schools,” session.
According to Keller, the Community focused on Gila Crossing as their “pilot project” for the new school funding concept. “The concept was simple: we construct the school, we finance the construction, [Bureau of Indian Education, the Department of Interior] leases it back to us in a commercial lease,” said Keller.
Gila Crossing is set to open July 2019.
In “The New Realities of Indian Health Care,” Everling outlined data from Indian Health Services and the funding of Gila River Health Care facilities. Gold was on the “Renewable Energy: Unleashing Limitless Energy on Indian Country,” panel and gave a presentation called “GRICUA’s Solar Project Journey,” which highlighted the development of a utility-scale solar project.
The award luncheon started with NAFOA President Cristina Danforth highlighting the recipients, which also included Native American Activist, Susan Masten, member of the Yurok Tribe.
Gov. Lewis’ award introduction included a video of Congressman Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) congratulating Lewis. Lujan said Lewis is, “always willing to lend a helping hand and always willing to bring people together.”
Friend of the Lewis family, John Echohawk, Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund, formally introduced Lewis and recalled his close friendship with Lewis as well as his father, the late Rodney B. Lewis.
Lewis’ award included an alabaster sculpture by artist Robert Dale Tsosie and an eagle feather from the Grey Snow Eagle House in Oklahoma.
Lewis, in his second term as governor said, “I accept this award on behalf of my family, on behalf of my father, the late Rodney Lewis in his memory, and on behalf of all of the Gila River Indian Community, my 17-member council, and my Lieutenant Governor Robert Stone.”
Lewis also recognized the NAFOA staff and thanked the Pueblo of Santa Ana for hosting the conference. Lewis also thanked his friend, director Chris Eyre, who was in attendance.
“Governor Lewis is a pillar of our community who deserves the highest honor we can bestow,” said NAFOA President Danforth. "His lifetime dedication and commitment has paved the way for a brighter economic future for not only the Gila River Indian Community but for all Native people.”