AOPPYC Inauguration Welcomes New Members and Leadership


Emma Hughes

Gila River Indian News


The Akimel O’odham/Pee-Posh Youth Council (AOPPYC) held its inauguration for incoming members and executive officers taking the oath of office on Saturday, Oct. 28, at the Huhugam Heritage Center before their family and friends. The event also recognized its outgoing members of the AOPPYC.


The 2023-2024 Executive Officers for AOPPYC are President Junior Pancott, Vice-President Caiden Lewis, Secretary Sayuri Jackson, and Treasurer Aiyana Jackson. 


Greg Mendoza, former Governor of the Gila River Indian Community and founder of the AOPPYC served as the Master of Ceremonies for the event.


Mendoza highlighted the many accomplishments made by the AOPPYC throughout the year, such as hosting traditional events held in the Community, representing in the UNITY mid-year and annual conference, and most notably representing GRIC during Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit.


“I was really touched when I saw them on the stage with the Vice President of the United States when she visited our Community back in July,” said Mendoza, “To see the young people behind the Vice President was very powerful, it was very historic, and I love the fact that the young people were given a seat at the table, whether it be at the tribal level or the national level.”


“Thank you to everyone who has been there with me throughout these past four years. Over time I’ve gained a tremendous amount of skills that have helped me throughout my schooling, my current employment, and just everyday life,” said outgoing president Ariana Blackwater. During her time as president, First Lady Jill Biden personally invited her to attend the White House Tribal Youth Forum in Washington, D.C., last fall. 


“When we have young people like this, who answer the call to our Community, that shows leadership,” said Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis, who shared words of encouragement for the new AOPPYC members and officers.


“We’re really proud of each of you for making this accomplishment,” said Lt. Gov. Monica Antone, who also shared remarks.


Judge Darren Pedro-Martinez oversaw the swearing-in of the new and returning members of the AOPPYC that evening. Judge Pedro-Martinez is also an AOPPYC Advisory Board member.