Jr. Miss Gila River, Statewide Tribal Royalty Lead Panel On Mental Health

Kyle Knox

Gila River Indian News


Observing May as Mental Health Awareness Month, Jr. Miss Gila River Sineca Jackson completed a series of three presentations focused on mental health for the Community. The series, which wrapped up on May 27, included a roundtable discussion featuring tribal royalty from around the state and a presentation on O’otham culture and mental health.


“I hope these presentations serve those of you who may struggle with mental health,” said Jackson. “It is okay to ask for help because if you do, you’ll find a better, positive, and healthier version of yourself mentally.” 


Jackson championed this mental health awareness effort with the support of the Miss Gila River Committee. The sessions were co-hosted by Miss Gila River Alyse Marrietta, along with more than 25 participants joining the virtual discussion.


Panelists for the tribal royalty session included Miss Indian Arizona Amy Spotted Wolf (Tohono O’odham Nation); Ms. Indigenous ASU Lourdes Pereira (Tohono O’odham Nation/Hia-C-ed);  Mr. Indigenous 1st Attendant Randy Long (Navajo Nation); and Miss Tohono O’odham Nation Mazey Ortega.


The panelists discussed a range of topics, from building a support system to the need to familiarize yourself with mental health resources, breaking negative stigmas surrounding mental health disorders, finding strength in one’s culture and practices, and identifying and addressing sources that may challenge an individual’s mental health.


GRIC Tribal Education Department Cultural Coordinator Anthony Gray led the conversation on the cultural aspects. Participants submitted questions prompting the discussion, allowing the panel members to discuss their own experiences and observations about mental health.


Gray highlighted various O’otham cultural practices frequently used to help individuals who have suffered trauma or a distressing situation and he shared how trauma, war and combat can take a toll on the mind and body. Gray said specific O’otham ceremonies to address these situations can require fasting, smudging, and seclusion. 


Miss Gila River Alyse Marietta thanked Gray for his insight into tribal healing. “I am so grateful to Anthony Gray for passing on this cultural knowledge to us,” said Marietta. “We have our own way of healing and I’ve learned so much about specific cultural practices found within our own Akimel O’otham himdag.”