Indigenous Center Opens with a Celebration at ASU’s Tempe Campus

Arizona State University’s Tempe Campus hosted the pre-grand opening of the Labriola National American Indian Data Center (LNAIDC) inside the Hayden Library on April 3.


Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis was joined by ASU dignitaries, tribal leadership, and ASU students in support of the latest expansion for Indigenous students, in a space that honors O’otham Jeved (land).


Alexander Soto, a Tohono O’odham Nation member and the Labriola Center director, welcomed everyone into the newly renovated space with opening remarks and introductions of his Indigenous staff. Soto’s remarks were followed by a welcoming song by Andrew Pedro, District 3, a land acknowledgment song from Miss Indigenous ASU, Hannah Nockideneh, and Miss Indian Arizona First Attendant, Tonana Ben.


Speeches from Gov. Lewis, ASU President Dr. Michael Crow and ASU’s University Provost, Nancy Gonzalez, followed. 


“If you follow ASU, you know that we are increasingly known in many things, (including) innovation, global impact, sustainability,” said Provost Gonzalez. “The Labriola center is yet another example. Labriola and this space is the one and only Indigenous-led library centers … in the United States.”


Gonzalez said the Labriola center uniquely promotes Indigenous academic excellence by providing a culturally safe space to engage with Indigenous information, histories, and cultures.


The center will also uphold tribal sovereignty and data sovereignty, meanwhile contributing to cultural resilience for ASU’s 4,000-plus Indigenous students, 70-plus Indigenous faculty members, and the 23 regional tribal communities that are a part of the ASU community.


“ASU has an ongoing … sacred responsibility to provide, and to stand for and to support, those 22 tribes here in Arizona, because of the land it’s on, they are O’otham lands,” Gov. Lewis told the attendees of the grand opening.


The space features art from Indigenous artists, books written by Indigenous authors, and music that is familiar to Indigenous people. The center also offers amenities for Indigenous students to utilize, including a stage with cameras and speakers in the ceiling, and monitors to host Zoom calls.


The glass murals that outline the center depict O’otham landmarks represented by Tohono O’odham artist, Thomas “Breeze” Marcus and Onk Akimel O’odham artist, Dwayne Manuel.


“If you go on top of “A” mountain (Oithbad), you can see Tempe,” said Marcus in an interview with the GRIN.  “There’s so many buildings now, that it’s almost hard to see the land of sight to the North.”


Marcus said his teachings and tribal traditions emphasize each mountain across the O’otham territories: Red Mountain in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Baboquivari Peak located in the Tohono O’odham Nation, and Phoenix South Mountain, home to the Gila River Indian Community.


“It’s getting harder and harder (to see) with the development, so we wanted to reintroduce that into the space, and show the past of the river flowing and the transition into modern day,” said Marcus.


In a interview with the ASU news team in March, center director Soto said “This space has an opportunity to help our students see what is possible. With our staff members being all Indigenous, we can provide library services that support Indigenous research methodologies… Native students don’t have to explain themselves to us since we can relate to where they are coming from.”


The event concluded with specially prepared Indigenous themed meals, prepared by chefs Nephi Craig (White Mountain Apache) and Twila Cassadore (San Carlos Apache).


The grand opening continued in the afternoon with a public ceremony that included an open house and live music featuring Diné (Navajo) DJ Reflekshin and Indie rock band One Way Sky (Akimel O’otham/Tohono O’odham).