REMARKS FROM COUNCILMAN GREGORY MENDOZA
GILA RIVER RECOGNITION BANQUET FOR GRADUATES
JUNE 18, 2011
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.
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.
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.
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