Hobbs reaffirms ‘open door’ policy in first ever tribal State of the State address

In the first-ever Indian Nations & Tribes State of the State Address, Gov. Katie Hobbs outlined her commitments to Arizona’s 22 tribal nations and her affirmation of an open-door policy within her administration for tribes.

“You have my word: For as long as I am governor, you will always be welcome on the 9th Floor,” Hobbs said. “While my door is certainly always open, I know how important it is to meet each of you in your communities.”

Hobbs emphasized that she has traveled to various tribal nations throughout the state to address issues that directly impact those communities. 

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For example, she spoke about border security on the Tohono O’odham Nation in southern Arizona, celebrated the Navajo Nation Council’s 100 years of governance and learned about the history and traditions of the Hopi Tribe.

“To those I have not yet visited, I am eager to, and you can trust that I will continue to prioritize these trips as we work together on our shared priorities,” she said.

Gila River Indian Community Governor Stephen Roe Lewis said that Hobbs reiterating her open-door policy speaks volumes because she is actively inviting tribal leaders to the Capitol for discussions, but also making an effort to visit their communities.

“That’s so important for tribes to be at the table when we’re talking about issues of water policy, health, education (because) these are all issues that resonate and are important to the tribes here in Arizona,” Lewis said. 

He said he believes that Hobbs is working to make sure that tribal nations in Arizona are equal partners in these issues, and it’s something that resonated with the tribal leaders.

During her first year in office, Hobbs said that she was able to provide quality investments and commitments for tribes across the state, including expanding broadband within tribal communities, negotiating and securing tribal water rights, and keeping the tribes’ ability to put land into trust.

Hobbs said tribes have played a huge role in some of the state’s “most impactful water negotiations,” which is why she is working to ensure that “tribes will continue to have a seat at the table.”

Hobbs addressed dozens of tribal leaders from all over Arizona during the Inter Tribal Associations of Arizona’s Indian Nations & Tribes Tribal Leaders’ breakfast at the Heard Museum on Wednesday.

The Inter Tribal Association of Arizona (ITAA) is a tribal consortium comprising 21 of the 22 tribal nations in Arizona, said Shan Lewis, the president of ITAA and vice chairman for the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe. 

Through ITAA, tribal leaders can advocate on issues of importance to one and all tribal communities in a collective manner, he added. 

Lewis said that, through a collective effort among the tribal nations across Arizona, they were able to get a huge win when President Joe Biden officially designated Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni as a national monument, a nearly million-acre national monument that will stop uranium exploration around the Grand Canyon.

“While we know it takes a great deal of effort to achieve our objectives, we also know that by working collectively, we can continue to achieve landmark agreements and progress throughout the great state of Arizona,” he said.

Hobbs commended her administration for prioritizing the Governor’s Office of Tribal Relations, which was not a priority by the previous administration for years due to a lack of proper staffing or funding.

“The Governor’s Office of Tribal Relations has already transformed the state’s relationship with all of you, and it’s critical that we are able to keep this momentum going,” Hobbs said, calling on tribal support during the offices’ first renewal process with the Arizona House Government Committee of Reference.

Jason Chavez, the director of tribal affairs for the Governor’s Office of Tribal Relations, said the office hosts Indian Nations and Tribes Legislative Day and assists state agencies in their tribal consultation and outreach activities.

“Together, let us make sure that tribal communities continue to have an active voice in our state government and foster a relationship we can pass on to the generations of changemakers that will come after us,” Hobbs said.

Navajo Nation Council Speaker Crystalyne Curley said the tribe has several priorities that she feels state leadership will actually listen to for the first time.

“We have this great momentum coming from state leadership, especially a governor that really cares about our issues and (is) willing to have that open door policy with tribal leaders,” Curley said. “It’s something that we really greatly appreciate and take advantage of because, (for) far too long, we’ve been trying to push our priorities with different administrations.”

Curley said a day prior to Hobbs’ address at the Heard Museum, she had a one-on-one discussion with the governor in which she voiced her concerns and priorities for this legislative session.

A few of the Navajo Nation’s priorities that Curley was able to share with Hobbs included the continued exploitation of Indigenous people through the sober living homes crisis, working with the state on road maintenance and infrastructure, and the importance of funding for public education.

Curley said she wants to see that “sovereign-to-sovereign relationship” moving forward and supports the governor’s efforts.

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