Chief Azul Day Returns, Honors Last Traditional Leader
October 20, 2023
Gila River Indian News
With the world ever-changing and Community youth aging into Community elders, their life journeys become an experience in history. Teaching these experiences becomes a part of the Community’s cultural enrichment that future generations will learn. The Gila River Indian Community preserves the importance of teaching the Community’s history by hosting the honorary memorial for the “Last traditional Chief” Antonio Azul. This memorial took place from Oct. 13 to Oct. 14 from Sunset until Sunrise in District 3.
“Chief Azul was a leader in extraordinary times, and we still are in extraordinary times,” said Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis in his speech to the family and volunteers at the event. He acknowledged that Chief Azul was a warrior, military strategist, and a diplomat forming the first militia in Arizona. “This is why we are here, it’s not only to share in the present to honor the past, but to keep this alive for the future as well,” said Gov. Lewis as he recalled Azul’s memory with a GRIC youth unfamiliar with the his history.
Community veterans and Community first responders from the Gila River Police Department, Gila River Fire Department, Gila River EMS, and Gila River Veterans & Family Service Office lead a procession from the Governance Center until meeting at the West Cemetery in Sacaton. Community members and volunteers from the Huhugam Heritage Center marched into the premises where Chief Azul was laid to rest in 1909.
“He protected our land, our borders. He protected us for what we have today,” said Lt. Gov. Monica Antone, as she thanked the volunteers and veterans for their civic duties in hosting and honoring Chief Azul.
Six generations of family members from the Azul family arrived to witness this memorial. All were honored to see their sixth-great grandfather recognized for his esteemed rankings in political, military, and educational advocacy in the Community.
“All young people, really need to ask questions of their moms and dads and uncles, and especially ask questions of your grandparents,” said Dean Azul, 5th generation descendant of Antonio Azul. “There’s a lot of history that you can learn from them that you probably don’t know about, and when they pass away you’ll find yourself asking about things.”
The second day of the memorial brought together traditional singers, food vendors, and military veterans to the annual tribute. At the same time, the military veterans stood on guard in front of the grave in honor of Chief Azul. The ceremony concluded at sunrise on Oct. 14.