Hope and Change for Gila River Indian Community

November 5, 2011

Dear Community Members:

I am at this critical crossroads in our future because of your overwhelming support. I believe that one of our greatest assets as a Community is our human resources. I believe that hope and the will of the people is what brings about meaningful change and am confident that the challenges we face now can be resolved by the innovation, creativity, commitment and love that we have together for our people and our Community.

Thank you for teaching and guiding me throughout my life about what is essential to protecting our sovereignty. I wanted each of you to know how much I respect your willingness to share your ideas and the trust you have placed in me in believing I will carry out your vision for the future of our Community.

As we, together take on the challenges of better health care, education, housing, youth development, infrastructure and balanced growth, I will be mindful that these issues are foundational to the economic and social structure of our Community and will define the quality of life for generations. I will approach the freeway issue from the perspective of the protection of our rights and our economic future. The ideas of the people will be foundational in dealing with this issue and guiding it towards a successful outcome for our future. The protection of sovereignty is the ability to control what is sacred to our way of life. Exercising our sovereignty by controlling how this issue is dealt with and the potential positive and negative impacts are critical. At the core of this process is the safeguarding of our history and the wisdom that has been shared for generations. I am confident that when you do what is right, success will follow.

This is your time to be heard.

What I have seen over these last several months is that people are ready to embrace change. There is a strong and unrelenting current of desire by the people to create a thriving Community that mirrors to the rest of the world who we are as a people and all that we hold sacred to our way of life. Hope is what will drive the vote in this election and the belief that together can achieve true freedom as a sovereign nation.

It would be an honor to represent you as your Governor for the future of our Community. I respectfully ask for your support and your vote on Tuesday, November 8th.

With enthusiasm and spirit,

Greg Mendoza

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Responses to Questions from August 20th Candidates Forum in District Six

QUESTION: Is there a Fed law that let American Indians attend any school in the US? Is so, what up with Laveen School here in Laveen, Arizona?

RESPONSE BY GREG MENDOZA: Under federal law all Native Americans are entitled to attend any educational institution as long they meet the school’s minimum requirements. As for Laveen School, for an example: you may need to live within the school district.

QUESTION: Would you push to pass for a vote? What is your opinion about the Tribal Constitution? Do you support it?

RESPONSE BY GREG MENDOZA: If the tribal constitution is referring to the 1960 Constitution, we have lived with this constitution for over 50 years. I support the current constitution. In regards to the draft constitution, I support the draft because it defines the three branches of government (executive, legislative, judicial); it removes the BIA from the secretarial election process and offers an amendment process.  

QUESTION: How can you stop lengthy punishments for minor crimes? Can you help change this because our youth need to be working not in jails?

RESPONSE BY GREG MENDOZA: We need to support parents in being accountable and responsible for their children. We as a Community need to invest more time and energy into programs that addressed our youth and offer support.

QUESTION: What does “Team” mean to you?

RESPONSE BY GREG MENDOZA: A coordinated effort to accomplish a common goal.

QUESTION: In 2008: Governor’s team looking into issue with DRS police, but we still have same issues (where action)

RESPONSE BY GREG MENDOZA: I understand there are still issues surrounding DRS and the Police Department. But due to sensitive nature there are limitations of what can be discussed publicly. Therefore, I recommend you to speak with the Governor’s team.

QUESTION: Where is the job description so we could know what to ask of you or what expectations are?

RESPONSE BY GREG MENDOZA: There is no job description as classified through the Human Resources Department. However, GR-122-00 ordinance describes the powers and duties of the Governor. The tribal constitution identifies the role of the Governor. However, the community members may have greater expectations of the Governor which are defined through the election process.

QUESTION: Would you continue to support the tribal constitution and what it contains?

RESPONSE BY GREG MENDOZA: If you referring to the 1960 Constitution, Yes, I support the constitution as it defines the terms, rights of members, governing body, tenure of office, referendum and initiative processes.

QUESTION: If elected how you will deal with the freeway issues here in District 6?

RESPONSE BY GREG MENDOZA: In general, I would support the freeway as a means to diversifying our economic sources as long as it did not desecrate our sacred mountain. The freeway issue is definitely a hot topic for our community. At the heart of this issue is WHERE the freeway will be on land. Business developers and the State, thought has the loop either cutting through our sacred mountain or being aligned with current community lines. First know that I support economic development, diversifying our funding sources, and the rights of landowners and the community to develop their land. Secondly, I will safeguard our natural resources by protecting our land, water, vegetation, and sacred sites as stated in my platform. Now about the proposed freeway vote . . . as you may be aware of, the Community Council has voted to refer the matter to a referendum vote of the People. I respect the process, as outlined in the Tribal Constitution, and encourage all to vote on this important matter. I’m glad that Community members are not only interested, but are also adding to the discussion about the possible opportunities and issues that face our Community. Through these discussions, different perspectives are shared which can lead to out of the box solutions. Keep in mind that many of these opportunities/issues are not clear-cut with simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. The language of the freeway vote has not been created, so currently there is not an issue to vote on.

QUESTION: What are your feelings/opinions on “medical weed”?

RESPONSE BY GREG MENDOZA: The issue does not apply to the Community. However, I have a personal preference that this matter should be considered personal and as such I have no public opinion.

 QUESTION: How does a memo from Governor override our current policy or resolution?

RESPONSE BY GREG MENDOZA: Through an Executive Order which is a memo from the Governor defining directives, behaviors and expectation of Tribal Administration and staff.

QUESTION: How do you plan to get community involved to go to meetings?

RESPONSE BY GREG MENDOZA: By feeding the community interests. What I mean by this is to engage the community members at various levels i.e., schools, church, community, etc.

QUESTION: How do you see the role of Governor in comparison with the roles of the Community Council?

RESPONSE BY GREG MENDOZA: Currently, the Governor is delegated all administrative day-to-day responsibility for the Community. However, the Community Council has legislative responsibility for the Community. My view of this matter is simple: The Executive executes measures (the policies, laws); The Legislative approves measures (the policies, laws); The Judicial interprets measures (the policies, laws).

QUESTION: Veterans: the US president signed into law to provide each veteran with a home. Is Gila River working with the VA on an agreement for our veterans?

RESPONSE BY GREG MENDOZA: To clarify this matter, the federal government underwrites veteran’s financial obligations through the VA administration.

QUESTION: When it comes to education High School dropouts has a high percentage. How can that be changed?

RESPONSE BY GREG MENDOZA: Fund K-12 Retention Programs to improve graduation rates, track drop outs, and provide alternatives towards earning high school diploma or GED. Partner with parents and school officials to assess student performance at schools, including on and off reservation. Coordinate with Tribal Education Department and the schools to take an active role in facilitating discussions with the Community’s programs and schools. Meet with school officials and teachers to provide educational expectations for our students.

QUESTION: Our Community has a mindset of accepting domestic violence as normal, how can you as a community leader change this?

RESPONSE BY GREG MENDOZA: We don’t accept domestic violence as normal; we accept domestic violence with a blind-eye to this activity. First by education, we can raise the level of value of individuals. (Children, women, elders)

QUESTION: In most corporations, the CEO reports to the Board and Shareholders on the operations of the company. As a candidate for GRIC Governor aka CEO, what is your position on reporting to the Districts on a Semi-Annual basis by attending all District Community Meetings in person?

RESPONSE BY GREG MENDOZA: To provide consistent updates to Tribal Departments, Employees, Districts, the Community Council, the Elderly Concerns Group, the Council of Elders, the Youth Council and Urban Members living off the Community. Provide monthly updates via Gila River News, Tribal Website and Social Media. Use technology to communicate status of our Community.

QUESTION: How you going to correct passed wrongs for RIF/terminated employee; what about HR?

RESPONSE BY GREG MENDOZA: I am not being elected to change pass administrative decisions.

QUESTION: Education – How are you going to improve the process of the scholarship funding? My son is not in school this semester due to the education dept. messed up his funding last semester. They were late sending funds to the school so he was dropped from all classes. I helped him get some classes back but he lacked a class which affected his funding for this semester but now he is not eligible for the scholarship. As  a single parent trying to encourage him he is very discouraged with the tribe, so again how are you going to improve the funding so other kids don’t keep going thru this?

RESPONSE BY GREG MENDOZA: At this point, I believe it is important to review the policies and procedures for scholarship funding.

QUESTION: As Governor how do you plan on dealing with the corruption of certain directors and from being manipulated by them? Certain depts. are very hush because of their policies, but as community members we should have the right to speak on all the mistreatment of tribal employees as well as hard working employees. Will you know when you are being manipulated?

RESPONSE BY GREG MENDOZA: Currently all department directors are contracted annually. The Community Manager’s performances are tied with the duties and obligations of the department directors. Therefore, I will hold community managers accountable for their director’s behaviors.

QUESTION: How can you make community managers more responsible & accountable for their duties especially with such high salaries?

RESPONSE BY GREG MENDOZA: As with the previous question. I will hold Community Managers accountable for their director’s behaviors.

QUESTION: Our tribe is very humble and our blood quantum is dropping also this is non-natives coming on community and enrolling as Akimel O’odham & Pee-Posh. What can you do to stop that?

RESPONSE BY GREG MENDOZA: At this point, I believe it is important to review the policies and procedures that defined the enrollment process for becoming a Community member.

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Our Young People Must Prepare To Be Good Citizens and Leaders

Gila River YouthOctober 15, 2011- Keynote Message to the Akimel O’odham/Pee-Posh Youth Council


August 15, 2011- Address to Students of Ira H Hayes High School

I was meeting with a colleague of mine a short time ago when we talked about a young man who had recently graduated from high school. He described the graduate who wore clean but loose fitting trousers, a T-shirt with the name of a rock band across the front, a University of Arizona baseball cap, and a thin mustache that had a lot of filling in to do. He had heard good things about the young man, but he did not make a good impression when they met. He had the opportunity to speak with the teenager for about 15 minutes, but then he had walked away nodding. From those few minutes of conversation my friend had realized that the young man was smart, had a level of common sense he seldom sees in many adults, and had sound and attainable goals for the next few years. He saw that the young man really respected his single mother and grandparents who were consistent in what they asked of him – and that made his teenage life less hectic!

This happened down at Tohono O’odham, but it could just as well have happened here in the Gila River Indian Community. It made me think about our young people – many of those just now graduating from high school will be our next generation of Community leaders. Some of the older folks in the Community look at our young people, and from their first impression, wonder where our new leaders will come from – well, you’re looking at them! They might not appear to be smooth and polished, and they certainly have much to learn about our Community and the people. However, they will slowly and eventually become knowledgeable and confident.

There are differing schools of thought about how a sense of leadership should be instilled into young people. Some think we should groom our young people for leadership, almost taking by hand those who we think have good qualities of leadership. Yes, we probably can do that, but I place much of the responsibility for preparing to be a leader on the young people themselves. I believe that those who want to be leaders already have that desire and determination imprinted in their minds. They will find ways to learn the lessons that will help them to be good leaders. They will show the initiative to find ways to associate with people from whom they can learn about leadership and commitment.

An O’odham educator who teaches business to college students wrote a piece about the importance of experience and education in the learning process. She wrote: “Many successful business people lack formal college education, and many highly-educated people lack important business experience. Success seems to come more from personal drive and ambition than anything else.”

That premise can also be applied to leadership. Those young people who have personal drive and ambition will find ways to reach positions of responsible leadership. When I talk about positions of leadership, you should understand that our Community needs leaders at many levels. Yes, we need tribal government and Community Council leaders. We also need strong leaders, with clear vision for a brighter future for our people, to head effectively our government programs and projects. We need leaders to administer our business enterprises in a profitable manner. We also need leaders in our districts and in the communities that make up those districts. Not every young person may want to be a leader, but for those in their late teens and early twenties who have drive and ambition, you should know that your leadership in the future is not only needed, it is welcomed by your Community.

I encourage our young people to demonstrate the initiative to ask questions, to take on tasks that might seem difficult, to propose answers that you think might not be accepted, and to learn as much about your Community as you can. Even if you don’t aspire for leadership, what you learn today will help you to become a good citizen tomorrow. Above all, don’t be deterred by unanswered questions, or by those who ignore your ideas and point of views.

And I urge those of us who are now in leadership positions throughout our Community, don’t turn away from our young people when they stand up to speak, when they seek answers, and when they voice their opinions. Though we like to think that we will be here and will be able to lead for many, many more years, we will not! We should listen to our youth, try to understand what they have to say, and help them develop into the leaders that our Community need in the years to come. We all must do our part to make this a reality for the good of the Gila River Indian Community as a whole.


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Official Announcement

Community Members

I am humbled to announce my Candidacy for the Office of Governor of the Gila River Indian Community.

Having grown up in our Community and received the support and encouragement of you, my relatives, I have come to this decision to help move our Community forward with innovative ideas and principles learned through my experiences in working for our Community. I am committed to improving education and youth development, elderly, health care, housing, and economic growth.

I welcome and encourage you to submit your ideas to improve services for our elders, families and youth via:

With this in mind, I want to help build an environment, in which our people can thrive and achieve a stronger sense of self-worth as individuals, who can then reach a higher level of Health and Wellness and therefore become more actively engaged in building a stronger and healthier community.

I will assess the overall ways in which we deliver tribal services. By collaborating with our tribal employees, I will find improved means to better serve the needs of our tribal members. Further, by implementing new policies my administration will better ensure effective and efficient delivery of services to our people. I will provide greater transparency and hold management accountable for services that are planned and budgeted to meet the Community’s needs. I intend to assure that funds appropriated are being spent accordingly and with due diligence.

I will reach out to our community members to understand their concerns and partner for solutions and also keep in mind the security of the land and natural resources that we hold sacred.

I look forward to sharing my message of Change and Hope for the Future.

With Enthusiasm and Spirit,

Gregory Mendoza

***** Let your voice be heard and Vote *****

***** September 20, 2011 *****


[Download flyer]

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Gila River Recognition Banquet for Graduates

JUNE 18, 2011

Gila River Indian Community Recognition Banquet: Councilman Mendoza and graduate

Margaret Johnson, District #3, GED Graduate

This is a wonderful and proud day for Gila River!

We have for years treated education as a means of assimilation with the understanding that this was and is not the direction we as a people wish to follow. Yet we have done little to alter this approach in the way we have treated our people.

It is one thing to make available to our people education at the secondary, junior college, university, and graduate/profession levels. As this does enrich the individuals life but if we are to enrich the lives of the community we need to bring back to the community those individuals we have spent time and money educating. Otherwise we are no better than the Federal Government in acting as assimilators.

Gila River Indian Community Recognition Banquet: Councilman Mendoza and graduate

Kayla Kisto, District #3, Casa Grande Union High School Graduate

Before us today are the results of hard work and effort by individuals who saw their future in education and took advantage of the opportunity presented by the Gila River Indian Community. Now it is the community’s responsibility to respond to their action by providing positions for these graduates to fill. Otherwise, we are nothing more than the assimilator of our people.

A good friend of mind use to say “My job is to lay the foundation for Community members to follow.” What he met was he was a mentor and at some point he would relinquish his position to a Community member.

Gila River Indian Community Recognition Banquet: Councilman Mendoza and graduate

TeriLynne Kisto, District #3 Ashford University Graduate

During my years in education, involvement has often been complex, given the roles and responsibilities of Indian Education at the tribal, state, federal levels. The complexity of Indian Education is further compounded by the often misunderstood legal concepts of treaty rights, sovereignty, and government-to-government relationships that exist among Indian tribes and the Federal Government. Given all this, I choose to look at three areas of Indian Education that I think are important: tribal control of education, focus and priority and language and culture. Let me share some notions of the following:

  • Tribal Control of Education – We have for years talked of a community school district. This would make the wishes of the Community – a defined directive.
  • Focus and Priority – When we look at the Community we see about eight thousand jobs according to the GRIC Labor Force Study. If we look at the focus and priority of the Community as filling those positions with Community members. Then Community is now in a position to support the education our graduates have obtained.
  • Language and Culture – We are losing our voices of the past. Recently, Emmett White passed and a voice of the past was lost. If we take the time to record our elders we can retain some of the past for future generations.
Councilmen at the Gila River Indian Community Recognition Banquet

Phillip Ahmsaty, District #5, Arizona State University Graduate

To the High School and GED Graduates:

You completed another chapter in your life. I hope you continue to further your education, because we need an educated Gila River Workforce and an educated Gila River Indian Community.

To the College Graduates:

The Community Council two weeks ago reaffirmed the Community’s Preference Pledge for Employment as PRIORITY for Community members. I will hold the tribal administration accountable to that pledge as we need an educated workforce. I will advocate for a Mentorship program for college students.

But rather than go on with the issues which propelled me into this elected office, let us all turn to the point at hand and congratulate our graduates. May Heavenly Father continue to guide you in all your future endeavors. Thank you.

Gregory Mendoza, Councilman
Chairman, Education Standing Committee
Gila River Indian Community

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Taking the Oath of Office

Taking Oath of Office: Greg Mendoza, District Four Councilman

A moment I will never forget: taking the Oath of Office as District Four Councilman with my beloved parents by my side.

Today is a day I will never forget as I was sworn in as a District Four Councilman.  I am happy to report that I was appointed by the Community Council (the “Tribal Council”) to the following Community Council Standing Committees:

1).  Education Standing Committee – The committee provides recommendations and assistance on policy formulation and clarification to the Tribal Education Department and other education entities in all matters relating to the education Native American/Alaskan Natives, in particular, the education of Community residents and members of the Community.

2).  Legislative Standing Committee– Review and make recommendations to the Tribal Council in matters related to resolutions, ordinances, codes, constitutions, taxation language and legal verbiage in assuring their legal correctness. Provide recommendations and assistance on policy formulation and clarification to units engaged in all law enforcement, criminal/civil code enforcement, and protecting civil and human rights which includes tribal, county, (Maricopa & Pinal Counties), state, and BIA Law Enforcement Services.

Part of the new Gila River Indian Community Council

On June 1, 2011, Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) history was made with three brothers serving on GRIC Community Council. Brian Davis, Sr. Councilman, District #5 (oldest brother); Christopher Mendoza, Councilman, District #4 (2nd oldest) and myself.

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Thoughts on Memorial Day 2011

Memorial Day 2011

Good Morning. Thank You for the opportunity to share some thoughts and history of Memorial Day.

Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day because it was a time set aside to honor the nation’s Civil War dead by decorating their graves. It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868, to honor the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, by proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former sailors and soldiers. On May 5, 1868, General Logan declared in General Order No. 11 that:

The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

During the first celebration of Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.

This 1868 celebration was inspired by local observances of the day in several towns throughout America that had taken place in the three years since the Civil War. In fact, several Northern and Southern cities claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, including Columbus, Miss.; Macon, Ga.; Richmond, Va.; Boalsburg, Pa.; and Carbondale, Ill.

In 1966, the federal government, under the direction of President Lyndon Johnson, declared Waterloo, N.Y., the official birthplace of Memorial Day. They chose Waterloo—which had first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866—because the town had made Memorial Day an annual, community-wide event during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.

By the late 1800s, many communities across the country had begun to celebrate Memorial Day and, after World War I, observances also began to honor those who had died in all of America’s wars. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May. (Veterans Day, a day set aside to honor all veterans, living and dead, is celebrated each year on November 11.)

Today, Memorial Day is celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave. Also, it is customary for the president or vice-president to give a speech honoring the contributions of the dead and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. About 5,000 people attend the ceremony annually and today a delegation of Gila River veterans is at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA to honor the contributions of our late warrior Ira Hamilton Hayes.

I want to express my sincerest appreciation to all our veterans in all branches of armed services. I especially want to thank our Native American Warriors – in wars past and present – who have sacrificed their lives to make this country a free nation. I also want to thank our Native American Warriors – our sons and daughters – that are currently serving in the Iraqi War and those that are stationed throughout the world. I hope and pray for their safety and return to their Tribal Homelands. Throughout military history, our Native Warriors have been patriotic and have been the first to volunteer to protect their homelands in the United States. They serve as proud warriors to protect their homes and their loved ones – to protect our freedom.

Today, we remember our beloved sons and daughters – for their acts of heroism, for their legacy, and for representing all Native Nations.  If you know a veteran and they don’t know you, give them a hug and let them know you appreciate their service.

May Heavenly Father Bless You, Our Community and Our Country.

Thank you.

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