ASU Lecture Series Highlights GRIC History and Culture with Tribal Education Department

Kyle Knox

Gila River Indian News


Arizona State University’s American Indian Student Support Services (AISSS) has partnered with the Gila River Indian Community Tribal Education Department (TED) to provide a month-long virtual lecture series for ASU students.


During March, lectures are concentrating on Akimel O’otham and Pee Posh history and culture. This new initiative will enrich AISSS programming for students by allowing surrounding tribal communities to share their history and culture as they see fit. 


The first lecture on March 4 covered the history of GRIC under Spanish and American control and the establishment of its present-day land base. Also this month, they will cover topics such as “Vaila” Social Dance Music, Gila River Indian Community Water Rights and History, and Mountains and Waterways. 


“A lot of our AISSS students are from other states or not from around here and aren’t familiar with the neighboring tribes or whose land they’re on, so I thought it would be good to educate them in those areas,” said Danya Hinton (White Mountain Apache Tribe), AISSS Student Success and Retention Coordinator. 


AISSS will follow a similar model for other tribes throughout the state in the future. But Hinton’s primary focus is on the nearest neighbors of ASU, including the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Pascua Yaqui Tribe, and Ft. McDowell Yavapai Nation.


Intended for Native American students at ASU, TED’s Culture and Language program manager Anthony Gray designed the series for non-GRIC members in mind. He says this will help address some common misconceptions about GRIC by students attending ASU from out of state.


For example, he said, “One of the most common questions we always get is, ‘Do you live in teepees?’” Gray hopes to educate attendees while addressing similarities and differences among Arizona tribes. 


Also driving this effort is enhancing AISSS’s official “land acknowledgment,” which recognizes ASU’s campus locations as the original ancestral homelands of the Akimel O’otham and Pee Posh. Land acknowledgments are becoming more commonplace and are shared aloud in public gatherings and at broader school functions.


However, a land acknowledgment doesn’t explain who the Akimel O’otham and Pee Posh are. By providing this information in the lectures, Hinton and Gray hope everyone attending will become familiar with the history and significance of the names associated with ASU’s land acknowledgment. 


“I’m really excited to have this partnership on this scale with ASU and to bring awareness to our history and identity and look forward to celebrating that with everyone this month,” said Gray.  


At the conclusion of the series, AISSS will host an O’otham social dance celebration at the ASU Tempe campus Wednesday, March 30. This will be the only in-person activity  and will showcase O’otham songs to mark the end of AISSS’s first lecture series.  


For more information on attending the last lecture, titled “Mountains and Waterways,” email Danya Hinton at