FLAGSTAFF—Friends and members of the organization Native Americans for Community Action (NACA) gathered at the Radisson Hotel to remember and give thanks for many blessings. The annual dinner marked more than another year of service to off-reservation Native Americans of Coconino County—2001 is the 30th anniversary of a dream begun in the late 1960s.
Special guests included Joe Donaldson, Mayor of Flagstaff, Michael Allison of the Arizona Department of Health Services, board members and employees and their families.
Reverend Arnold Lockett, Jr., a board member, offered the invocation.
Leroy Shingoitewa , principal of Kinsey School, served as Master of Ceremonies. “This evening is all about NACA and the families and employees who make it a success,” he said.
Shingoitewa joined other speakers to paint a picture of Flagstaff in the sepia tones of fond memories. “I remember the wagons,” he said. “In those days, Indians only came to Flagstaff to shop, buy supplies and lumber, or go to the pow-wow.” He spoke of joining other tired pow-wow dancers in the balcony of the Orpheum Theater. “You’d look around and see all of these Indians with their heads back, sleeping. When the movie was over we’d fake it. ‘That was sure a good movie!’ we’d be saying as we’d be walking out.
“I remember that when Indian people got together, I would hear laughing and singing. I was a pow-wow man,” he laughed. “I used to be a Cheyenne and Laguna.” As the crowd dissolved in laughter, Shingoitewa expressed his gratitude that back in the 70s, some people had a dream of putting something together to help Indian people. That something was Native Americans for Community Action.
Robert Lomadofki helped shape that dream. As part of a small contingency of Native Americans from Northern Arizona University, Lomadofki attended an Indian Education Conference in Phoenix. There, he met Curt Nordwall, director of the valley’s Indian Center. “He told us to go back and get a group together. Eventually we incorporated and opened a small facility in Thorpe Park.”
With humble beginnings—their first grant was for $1,000—NACA founders perceived themselves as an action group for the urban community. The group addressed issues such as the pow-wow. Despite the fond memories of many in the group, growing concerns over growing negative perceptions of Native Americans during the event led many to believe the pow-wow should be cancelled. “Three years after we incorporated, the pow-wow was put to sleep,” Lomadofki said.
NACA filled the void with the extremely popular Festival of Native American Arts, which featured the art, dancing and drama of Native people. Initially, it was held at the Coconino Center for the Arts—later the Museum of Northern Arizona became involved, and the event continues to bring thousands into the community.
Michael Allison delivered the keynote address. The recently appointed liaison of ADHS carried with him the good will and congratulations of Catherine Eden, director of the department. He continued with an outlook of Indian health across the nation, and encouraged the group to realize the need for working together.
“Each of us has a purpose, each of us have journeys we’ve walked. Similarly, all organizations have their own trials which must be overcome.” This cannot be done alone, Allison explained. People and organizations need the support of family and friends.
“Families are growing apart. We don’t stay together like we should”
We no longer follow our Indian ways and we are paying for it.” This includes the health arena, Allison said. “We didn’t used to have diabetes or much of the injury we see now. Over the years we’ve lost a lot of respect for ourselves, and some of our kids are seeing that. They are getting lost, caught between tradition and the outside worlds.”
Allison encouraged people to revitalize their tradition—to get up early and remember to pray and to run. And, he said, always remember that whatever you do, your children are watching. “Remember that, and you’ll always make good decisions.”
One improvement in health care delivery Allison sees is that small communities such as Dilcon will be getting their own health care facilities. “You will see that nationwide. There will be more local facilities developed.”
He also described better relations between state and tribes. “For a long time tribes didn’t know what the state was doing, the state didn’t know what tribes are doing.” This is changing, he said. Many state departments have opened liaison positions, Native Americans have been elected as state representatives. He closed with words of encouragement and a vow to lend his assistance wherever possible.
Dana Russell, CEO of NACA, took time to thank everyone in the room for their support and good will towards the organization. A special plaque was presented to Joy Hanley, the Executive Director of the Affiliation of Indian Centers. Russell then presented the Individual Achievement Awards for Employment & Training in Action. Recipients were Leona Atene, Terri-Beeson-Davis, Sylvia Cody, Liz Dann, Marilyn Garcia and Renee’ Nephew. All came to NACA as clients and later progressed through their programs and accepted employment within the organization.
Employee Recognition Awards went to Helene Roumegous, Susan Gishey and Crystal Pohl.
Russell gifted Allison and Shingoitewa with beautiful bolo ties.
Ric Charley, noted Flagstaff artist, was introduced and joined Russell in unveiling the NACA 30th Year Anniversary poster. Charley’s work is entitled “The Power of Unity.” Featuring several dancers in the snow before the Sacred Peaks, the work delivers a message of the need for unity between communities, Indian and non-Indian.
As the event came to a close, it was clear that the major theme was indeed of sharing. People came together to share ideas, memories, great humor and a meal. All were gifted for their support of NACA with gifts of beautiful coffee mugs and a signed copy of Charley’s poster. But the greatest gift was the company of so many sharing, caring individuals—which cemented the message unity expressed throughout the evening.