By Hiram Peña-Bonilla, Project Coordinator for the Haury Program
On September 23, 2020, the UArizona Native Nations Institute (NNI) led the Native Know-How workshop, sponsored by the Agnese Nelms Haury Program in Environment and Social Justice (Haury Program). The webinar addressed UArizona leaders, scholars, and students, and the presenters provided attendees with tools and knowledge to understand cultural and governmental issues when working with Native Americans and tribal entities. I attended the workshop as both a staff member of the Haury Program and a graduate student at the University.
The workshop opened with Danielle Hiraldo, NNI Tribal Outreach Specialist, Senior Researcher, and member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, presenting a brief look at U.S. Indian Country. I was struck by one of the facts she shared: Did you know that 78% of Native Americans do not live on reservations? I did not. Hiraldo gave us a brief foundation of knowledge about the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe, on which the Haury Program has been concentrating its efforts lately.
Following Hiraldo, Davida del Mar, NNI Senior Program Coordinator and member of the Navajo Nation/Diné, gave us a brief overview of Native nation governments. I learned that colonial policies have implemented, displaced, or destroyed Indigenous governance institutions and governing systems in the U.S. over the past few centuries. This showed me the strength and resiliency of Indigenous peoples and cultures, and it emphasized the importance of respecting supporting their sovereignty as nations when working with or on tribal lands. We reviewed Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe forms of government in more detail, and even learned that Miss Navajo Nation has a seat in the Navajo Executive Branch – her role is crucial in advancing and making decisions on cultural matters.
In the final presentation, Joan Timeche, NNI Executive Director and member of the Hopi Tribe, continued with offering helpful tips for working respectfully with Native nations and peoples. Timeche provided the attendees with guidelines for researchers looking for collaborations in Native nations. The Native Peoples Technical Assistance Office (NPTAO) is also a good source of information, as it serves as the liaison for Native Affairs to Research, Innovation & Impact (RII).
After all the presentations, the hosts broke us into working groups to discuss how the UArizona community could participate more comprehensively with Native nations and peoples. The workshop covered basic knowledge about the sovereign status of tribes, understanding political culture, and how these various components play into forging lasting relationships with partnering Native nations.
It was so much information to digest in just two and a half short hours! That’s why the Haury Program plans to expand these sessions and make future webinars, workshops, or other informational events available for the wider UArizona community. Native nations are an integral part of today’s society and our research at the University, whether it be through everyday interactions, community partnerships, or the names of places and landmarks.
Thank you, Danielle Hiraldo, Davida del Mar, and Joan Timeche, for sharing with us your knowledge.