Governor meets with tribal leaders in historic summit

“We’ve got some challenges--but out of challenges come opportunity,” said Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano during an historic summit with tribal leaders, held March 24 at the Grand Canyon. Earlier this year, Napolitano pledged to work closely with the Arizona tribes whose votes helped her achieve a close victory in the 2002 election.

The First Annual Governor’s Summit on Tribal Issues is believed to be the first ever called by a sitting governor to initiate a dialogue with leaders from Arizona’s Indian Tribes and Nations. Education and water, two of Napolitano’s policy priorities were discussed at the daylong summit.

Water was by far the day’s biggest issue, as tribes debated the merits of the Gila River settlement, the Little Colorado River adjudication and the several proposals for pipelines to quench an increasingly thirsty Northern Arizona.

Fort Yuma-Quechan President Mike Jackson was concerned about the terms of the Gila River Indian Community’s water settlement, which he and other tribal leaders believe would require tribes to waive litigation rights and tribal sovereignty.

“When somebody takes from the river, it affects all tribes,” added Jackson.

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