Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Mon, Dec. 16

Renovation in works for Phoenix Indian School band building
Phoenix area groups hope to turn building into historical site and multi-use facility for education and more

Phoenix Indian Center, Native American Connections, Local Initiative Support Corporation and the city of Phoenix are working together to renovate the band building at the Phoenix Indian School. Photo/city of Phoenix

Phoenix Indian Center, Native American Connections, Local Initiative Support Corporation and the city of Phoenix are working together to renovate the band building at the Phoenix Indian School. Photo/city of Phoenix

PHOENIX, Ariz. - Four groups are working together with the hope of renovating the Phoenix Indian School band building, which has been closed since 1991.

Phoenix Indian Center (PIC), Native American Connections (NAC), Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) and the city of Phoenix are the main supporters behind this initiative. PIC and NAC signed a memorandum of understanding with the city of Phoenix because the city owns the land.

The renovated building would have a historical area, a commercial kitchen and a health education area.

The historical area would pay tribute to Phoenix Indian High School. The historical area would be the first site visitors would see as they entered the building.

The commercial kitchen could be used for community events. This area would fit about 100 people for weddings, birthdays, ceremonies, memorials and family gatherings. This would also help people at the Memorial Hall next door because there is no kitchen there.

The third area would be used to improve education for health and wellness of Native Americans in the Valley, especially youth. Cooking classes and lessons about traditional food could take place.

The building will also include a space for meetings for tribal leaders and those in town who need a workspace or a place to take a shower.

Patricia Hibbeler, chief executive officer of Phoenix Indian Center, noted that the buildings are located in a beautiful park.

"People should be able to exercise, shower and then go to work," she said.

Hibbeler said there would also be a reflection room where people could reflect on the beauty and history of Phoenix Indian School.

This vision, including fixtures and equipment, comes at an estimated price of $1.2 million. The supporters of the renovation vision are just beginning their fundraising campaign.

"We want to break ground by the end of this year," Hibbeler said.

She estimates it would take eight to 12 months after the groundbreaking to complete the project. Architectural drawings are in the works. A four-hour focus group meeting took place where 40 people, including students and tribal representatives, could see the vision for the project.

"People were so excited, especially the former students from Phoenix Indian High School," Hibbeler said. "We're looking for former students, especially band members for their input."

The project has received letters of support from several tribes and representatives including former Hopi Chairman LeRoy Shingoitewa.

"It's important that they have a chance to tell their history," Hibbeler said. "Every day people are in the park and they have no idea what happened here."

Diana "DeDe" Yazzie Devine, chief executive officer for Native American Connections, can see the band building from her office.

Yazzie Devine has been a behavioral service provider and a housing provider for 42 years, but not a community developer - which is the task this project needs.

"A lot of Native Americans live and work in this area," she said.

Yazzie Devine said the project has received incredible support from the people who have heard about it so far. NAC took the project to the Salt River Tribal Council. President Diane Enos was going to delay a decision for a future meeting, but one councilman liked the project so much that he insisted on a vote and the tribal council voted to support the proposal.

"Our message is it's Native Americans' time to have a say on city buildings," Yazzie Devine said.

She said supporters of the proposal have walked the old band building and taped off the areas. She added that the Phoenix Indian High School band was superb and performed at the Rose Bowl one year.

"We want to connect with the former students who were in band and sports so they can tell their stories and we can document the history," she said. "We want to document the history of Phoenix Indian High School. The Phoenix community needs to know about the good and not so good."

Yazzie Devine said Phoenix Indian Center could also serve as a business center for those coming from out of town.

"There are Native American entrepreneurs who would like to sell at farmers' markets," she said.

Yazzie Devine said the healthy lifestyles area could address diabetes, fitness and healthy indigenous diets.

"The financing is challenging, but we have a lot of support," she said.

Several elected city officials have thrown their support behind the proposal.

"We've been meeting monthly about funding for the building," she said.

Supporters of the project are seeking funding from health care foundations, the Super Bowl Committee and private organizations. The Super Bowl Committee is committed to give 10 percent of proceeds to non-profit agencies.

"We want this to be a place where people will be comfortable when they step in," Yazzie said.

More information about the building and donating is available from Patty Talahongva at (602) 254-3247 or at ptalahongva@nativeconnections.org.

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