Valley School District Honors Local Native American Communities
Gila River Indian News
Tempe Union High School District (TUHSD) held a flag presentation to recognize the Gila River Indian Community , Ak-Chin Indian Community, Navajo Nation, Pascua Yaqui Tribe and Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community by posting their tribal flags in the TUHSD Governing Board Room.
The flag presentation, a first for the school district, took place on Sept. 15 just before TUHSD’s regularly scheduled governing board meeting.
“Given that students representing 19 of the state’s 22 tribes TUHSD schools, Our historic presence in the area must be recognized” said Ismael Osuna, a Pascua Yaqui tribal member and parent to a student in the school district.
“If you look around, there’s nothing that identifies or acknowledges any of our tribal communities at Tempe Union,” said Osuna. “Our students need to feel a sense of belonging, they need to feel included and valued.”
Osuna took on the initiative to have the flags posted after the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) conducted a formal posting of the Pascua Yaqui and Tohono O’odham Nation flags in the TUSD board room chambers in 2019.
Guadalupe, which also sends students to TUHSD, is the second largest Yaqui community outside of Tucson. “This is a really monumental moment for us, to be recognized, to be able to fly the colors of the nations,” said Valerie Molina, Mayor of Guadalupe.
“It’s a collective effort, but we’re here to recognize our friends, our students, who represent a number of our tribal neighbors. It’s just an honor to have this opportunity to have this in our district,” said Dr. Kevin J. Mendivil, TUHSD Superintendent.
“To see the tribal flags flown here, it signifies a very important statement – the recognition of sovereign nations,” said Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis who was present for the historic event. Nearly 30 GRIC students are currently enrolled in TUHSD schools.
“I see this as true partnership,” said Gov. Lewis. “For the Gila River Indian Community, we will definitely value this and look at ways we can support Native American education here in the Tempe Union High School District, as well as supporting the education of our students here moving forward."
Brian Garcia, TUHSD Governing Board President and a Pascua Yaqui member said, “It is very important to us as a school district to honor our government-to-government relationships that often get forgotten or left behind.”
Tribal dignitaries from the Ak-Chin Indian Community, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and Pascua Yaqui Tribe were present for the flag posting, including Peter Yucupicio, Pascua Yaqui Chairman.
“I think it’s a beautiful thing that you have opened up your mind and your heart to welcome us here in this intuition of learning,” said Chairman Yucupicio.