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Ak-Chin

From left, Carlos Ibarra Sr., Ak-Chin Councilmember Ann Marie Antone and Carlos Ibarra Jr. show off seed packets at the groundbreaking for Ibarra Family Farms at the Santa Cruz Commerce Center. Photo by Michelle Chance

The Ak-Chin Indian Community has deep roots in traditional agriculture. In July, it welcomed a new kind of agribusiness to its enterprise – hydroponics.

Ibarra Family Farms recently broke ground on a 1.2-acre parcel at Santa Cruz Commerce Center and hopes to be ready for production before January.

“Although it’s different technology, we are longtime farmers, and this is going to work out perfect together,” said Ak-Chin Tribal Council Member Ann Marie Antone during a groundbreaking ceremony July 19.

Hydroponics is a soilless cultivation that utilizes recycled nutrient solution to grow small crops. Ibarra Family Farms estimates it will save up to 95 percent of traditional water usage, pumped from underground Ak-Chin water.

Owner Carlos Ibarra, his wife, sons and daughter will operate their future 16,128-square-foot greenhouse that is unlike any other in the country.

“What I did with this and the design is I adapted everything, technologies from different parts of the world, and I’m trying to adapt it to Arizona weather conditions,” Ibarra said.

The greenhouse will be lower in height than traditional structures. A motor-operated weather station will open and close the roof automatically, depending on weather conditions.

The cosmopolitan operation will include hydroponic channels from Brazil, a Canadian greenhouse and various equipment from the United States.

Ibarra is a third-generation farmer with previous operations in Mexico spanning more than 25 years, growing a variety of crops from sugarcane to soy beans. His latest project will produce organically and conventionally grown lettuce, kale and spinach year-round, thanks to the adapted greenhouse design.

Ibarra’s son Carlos Ibarra Jr. will take up marketing for the Maricopa location. He hopes to bring a fresh perspective to the farm’s philosophy as the next Ibarra generation to cultivate the family business.

“It’s also good to have the best of both worlds; the older generation and our new generation, in a more sustainable way, a greener way,” Ibarra Jr. said.

As the farm grows, Ibarra Jr. would like to explore solar power options to its greenhouse and include sustainable friendly packaging and labeling for its produce.

Phase 2 of the project could see new crops including edible flowers and other vegetables.

Maria Hernandez, vice chair of the Ak-Chin Industrial Park Board, said the Ibarra Family Farms project has been two years in the making. She views the operation as the beginning of what’s next in the local agro-industry.

“We’re a farming community, but this is a different aspect of farming where we are getting into more of what’s in the future: Hydroponics,” Hernandez said. “It was kind of exciting because this is what we always wanted this area to be: More agribusiness type.”


This story appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.

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Photo by Michelle Chance

Competitive long drivers swung into action Friday morning at Ak-Chin’s inaugural Smash in the Sun event on a custom field north of UltraStar Multi-tainment Center. The community partnered with the World Long Drive organization to host the four-day competition – a portion of which will be aired live on the Golf Channel May 15 at 5 p.m. Male and female long drivers on Friday and Saturday compete in the qualifying series for a chance to advance to the 2018 Volvik World Long Drive Championship. See schedule here and here.

 

Photo by Mason Callejas

Maricopa Unified School District’s Native American Education Program and its parent advisory committee (NAPAC) hosted their year-end Family Night on Wednesday, honoring past, present and future.

The event featured Yellowhouse, an award-winning Navajo Nation dance group, as well as Ak-Chin’s Ba’ban Keina dancers. Maricopa High School’s Native American graduates were also spotlighted at the event, which was in the Performing Arts Center.

Click photos to enlarge.

Gila River War Relocation Memorial

By Maricopa Historical Society Vice President Denny Hoeh

For Archeology & Heritage Awareness Month, Maricopa Historical Society Vice President Denny Hoeh shared his top 10 historically-significant sites that contribute to the rich and diverse social tapestry around Maricopa. He said he hopes residents will step out and learn a few things beyond the legends and oral histories of the community.

“There’s an old expression that’s attributed to Dr. [Richard] White from the University of Washington. He said that ‘Americans love history, but have little use for historians,’” Hoeh said. “We all like our histories and we all like our stories that we have grown up with and things of that nature, but it’s nice to go to these places and see a little bit more of the correct history, some of the artifacts and some of the information that we might have missed in the folklore.”

Him-Dak Eco-Museum, Ak-Chin. Photo by William Lange

 

  1. Ak-Chin Indian Community

“They actually have three museum sites… which give a lot of history of Maricopa and the Native Americans just to the south [of Maricopa]. Those are [all] free [and] open to the public pretty regularly.”

  • Him-Dak Eco-Museum – 47685 W. Eco-Museum Road
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs Agency House – 46348 W. Farrell Road
  • Francis of Assisi Mission Schoolhouse – 16657 N. Church Road
Huhugam Heritage Center. Photo by Mason Callejas
  1. Huhugam Heritage Center 21359 S. Maricopa Road, Chandler

“It’s significant because not only does it have displays on the Akiel O’Odham and Peeposh members of the tribe, but it also stores the artifacts from Snaketown. Snaketown was one of the most significant Hohokam centers.”

 

Sonoran Desert National Monument. Photo by Bob Wick
  1. Sonoran Desert National Monument

“[The monument is] terribly underused, but through the national monument was a thoroughfare that literally people have been using for centuries. It designates nine different, recognized trails or nine different aspects to the trail.”

The area was traversed by pre-colonial indigenous cultures living around the Gila River basin; Spanish explorers in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, including Francisco Coronado, Juan Bautista de Anza and Father Kino; the Mormon Battalion, Forty Niners and multiple stagecoach routes.

Gila Bend
  1. Gila Bend Museum – 644 W. Pima St., Gila Bend

“In that museum it talks about [the historic] trails. It has pictures and exhibits and even some artifacts.”

Petroglyphs
  1. Painted Rock – Petroglyphs – Rocky Point Road, Dateland

It is the petroglyphs of the Hohokam people. It’s significant in that it is such a clear place that many of the folks who came along those trails and kept journals describe this area. So, we know exactly this area was visited by de Anza, was visited by the Mormon Battalion, was visited by gold rush pioneers as well as the Butterfield Stage[coach] line.”

 

First lady Eleanor Roosevelt visiting the Japanese Internment Camp on Gila River land near Maricopa.

 

  1. Japanese Internment Camp – Butte Camp Monument – Indian Route 86

“There’s an old structure that used to be the cultural center of the Gila River community. They’ve closed that cultural center, but in front of that they have displays and information about the Japanese internment camps… that were just outside of Maricopa.”

Ira Hayes Memorial, Sacaton
  1. Mathew B. Juan – Ira H. Hayes Memorial Park – Voak Drive, Sacaton

“[The commemorative park] talks about Ira Hayes [and] it talks about the veterans of WWI. One of the first soldiers to be killed in WWI happened to be a member of the Gila River community.”

Casa Grande Valley Historical Society Museum
  1. The Museum of Casa Grande – 110 W. Florence Blvd., Casa Grande

“It’s the old stone church building, [but] because Casa Grande and Maricopa paralleled a lot of history, when you go in and look at that museum, a lot of the history that is in that museum is also the history of Maricopa.”

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
  1. Casa Grande Ruins National Monument – 1100 W. Ruins Drive, Coolidge

“This has been around for a long time, It’s again one of those places that were recorded in lots of different histories, and when different people came into this area, they kept journals and they mentioned this area.”

In 1918 it officially became a national monument, so it is celebrating its 100th birthday as a National Monument this year.

Second Courthouse, Florence
  1. Florence

“I think you have to go to [Florence] to have a feel for the history of the area. [It] has a state historical park called McFarland [Historic State Park]… it has some great displays on the WWII German prison camp that was there… Also, the Pinal County Historical Society has a great museum… it has some great displays about this area [and] Pinal County. It also has a whole section that looks at the state prison.”

“One of the [other] buildings that you see right away [in Florence] is the second Pinal County Court House. You can go in, there’s a little bit of an exhibit, and the fun thing about that is that when they built it they ran out of money before they put in a clock, so they painted a clock in the tower.”

MacFarland State Park – 24 Ruggles St., Florence
Pinal County Court House – 135 N. Pinal St., Florence
Pinal County Historical Museum – 715 S. Main St., Florence


This story appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.

Dave Bald Eagle as Dan in the independent feature "Neither Wolf Nor Dog."

 

An independent film about bridging the gap between “white America and the Native American world” is coming to UltraStar Multi-tainment Center Jan. 12 for at least a week.

Neither Wolf Nor Dog, an adaptation of the novel by Kent Nerburn, stars legendary Dave Bald Eagle as a Lakota elder who brings a white author into South Dakota’s Pine Ridge reservation culture. This is not your average road-trip movie.

“It is very much from the reservation out rather than from Hollywood in,” said director Steven Lewis Simpson, a Scot who has lived in Lakota country for 18 years documenting native stories.

Bald Eagle was 95 when the film was shot. He died in 2016 at the age of 97. Bald Eagle’s relatives were at the battle of Little Big Horn in 1876 and Wounded Knee in 1890, and he absorbed their stories. He was a paratrooper during World War II (left for dead at Normandy), a champion ballroom dancer, stuntman, professional athlete, actor, educator and tribal chief.

Simpson said he brought more to the role than could be written in the novel or screenplay. “Dave had a closer relationship with Wounded Knee even than the character he plays,” he said.

Because of that, Simpson set up scenes, encouraged improvised dialogue and “got out of the way.” After shooting a pivotal scene at the end of the film when the characters end up at Wounded Knee, Bald Eagle told Simpson, “I’ve been holding that in for 95 years.”

Another actor was involved in a 1973 incident at Wounded Knee along with activist Russell Means, who brought Simpson in to film Neither Wolf Nor Dog. But the story is more relatable than resentful and has a “shocking” amount of quiet humor, Simpson said.

With a small budget for filming and distributing, Simpson took a different path than is the Hollywood norm. It was a crowdfunded project. Most of the screening locations have been at theaters owned by Native American enterprises. Word-of-mouth was spread primarily through social media. Movie-goers have scored it 95 percent positive on RottenTomatoes.com, and IMDB.com reviewers scored it an 8.2 out of 10.

Now Simpson is trying the same distribution tactic in Europe. “We have to work it very, very hard, but we’ve done better than the film that won Cannes last year.”


This story appears in the January issue of InMaricopa.

 

Clay Walker on stage at Ak-Chin Circle. Photo by Michelle Chance

Ak-Chin Indian Community celebrated its birthday Friday evening with performances from Parmalee and Clay Walker. The concerts are an annual event on-stage at Ak-Chin Circle that are free to the public. Country singer Kacey Tyndall opened the show.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Photo by Mason Callejas

Quad roping, jackpot team roping and saddle roping are just part of the rodeo events that are signatures of Masik Tas at Ak-Chin Indian Community. Saturday will feature a native-only junior rodeo followed by a bull bash and wild horse race for everyone. Saddle roping is set for Sunday. Learn more at http://www.ak-chin.nsn.us/_masiktas/ 

Clay Walker is on his way to Maricopa to perform at Ak-Chin Circle during Masik Tas.

Country music singer Clay Walker will hit the stage Friday as headliner of a free concert at Ak-Chin Circle.

A conversation with Clay Walker

The show is part of Ak-Chin Indian Community’s Masik Tas celebration and also features performances by openers Parmalee and Kasey Tyndall. Gates open at 6 p.m. on Dec. 8. Walker’s set begins at 9 p.m.

The country star will perform his classic hits Friday as well as new material that has yet to be released.

“That’s exciting for us because no one’s heard the music and it’s kind of nice to offer that exclusively in the live shows right now, but of course, it will be out soon enough for everyone to enjoy,” Walker said during a phone call from his home outside of Nashville Tuesday.

The unreleased tracks will soon be released online, he said.

The show will also feature some of Walker’s Christmas album with songs such as “All Wrapped Up In You,” written by Walker and holiday favorites “Winter Wonderland” and “Please Come Home for Christmas.”

Walker first appeared on country radio airwaves in the early 1990s with hits “What’s It to You,” “Live Until I Die” and “Dreaming with My Eyes Open.”

Then in 1996, Walker was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis while in his early twenties.

“The doctor who diagnosed me, and most professionals would agree with his opinion, and that was that I was going to be in a wheelchair in less than four years and dead in less than eight,” Walker said.

But the prognosis didn’t stop Walker. He went on to regularly record music, produce hits and tour the country ever since.

“Twenty years later I can say that I know that I’ve been blessed and I know that what has happened to me is nothing less than a miracle and I’m very thankful to God for that,” he said.

Walker also founded the charity Band Against MS about 15 years ago.

“We’re going to do everything we can to find a cure for MS,” Walker said.

Walker begins a six-month tour Jan. 6. Listen to full the interview here.



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Vekol Market store manager Susan Guerin watches over the deli portion of the store on Farrell Road in Ak-Chin Indian Community. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

A café/convenience store/gas station/tobacco shop is one of the most unique dining experiences in the Maricopa area. And its manager wants to expand on its uniqueness.

Susan Guerin
Title: Vekol Market store manager
Hometown: Ak-Chin Indian Community
Family: Spouse, three children
Likes most about her job: Meeting new people
Best business advice received: “Learn as you go. You’re going to make mistakes. It’s a learning process. In my position, you’re learning something new every day. It keeps your on your toes.

Vekol Market, open since 2012, serves up food cooked in front of customers. Located in the Ak-Chin Indian Community on Farrell Road, it draws a variety of customers with a variety of needs.

A favorite for many, according to manager Susan Guerin, is the low cigarette prices. “But surprisingly enough, and what I enjoy, is the deli,” she said. “A lot of people love it. We get a lot of compliments from first-time customers about the deli, and a majority of the items are freshly made.”

Married with three children, Guerin is a member of the Ak-Chin Indian Community. She started in tribal gaming and worked retail at a Walgreens in Phoenix before joining the staff at Vekol Market as an assistant store manager.

“Then I just stepped up,” she said.

Now it’s about growth.

“I feel like it’s going to continue to grow. There’s so much more we can do,” Guerin said. “We’re trying to expand our catering services. And we want to use our barbecue trailer more.”

She gives a lot of credit to deli supervisor Brandy Rivera, who is in charge of the burgers, burritos and pizza coming out of the kitchen as well as the bakery and catering.

“When it first opened, we were going to be a small café. As time went on, we had people requesting things,” she said.

Guerin said Rivera has been “amazing” about making items fresh.

“She comes up with new ideas all the time,” Guerin said. “When we have caterings, she doesn’t like to keep it set at the same menu. She’ll basically do whatever you request.”

Guerin estimates 75 percent of Vekol Market’s customers come from Maricopa, with other visitors being snowbirds or smokers coming from Casa Grande and even Tempe for tobacco products.

“We’ve been open 5 years and we’re still getting people who just heard about us,” she said.

The store manager lauded her crew of deli clerks for their hard work whipping up meals from scratch. She has changed little on the surface at Vekol Market since becoming manager, but there is a special focus behind the scenes.

“Everything’s basically stayed the same. It’s just more of a teamwork concept, get everybody to work together, get everybody trained correctly so it’s more uniform and everybody knows exactly what’s being done,” she said. “Just trying to keep everything fair for everyone.”


This story appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.

Photo by Victor Moreno

Ringside Unified Fighting returned to Maricopa Saturday with a full card of mixed martial arts cage fighting. Scheduled for 11 fights, the RUF event drew a noisy crowd to UltraStar Multi-tainment Center. It was commissioned under the Pascua Yaqui Tribe Boxing Commission. Official results are not yet available.

Photo by Michelle Chance

The ceremonies for the 15th annual Native American Basketball Invitational kicked off at Copper Sky Park Sunday evening. Sixty-four boys and girls teams from tribes across the United States and New Zealand participated in a parade of flags and meet-and-greet with fans.

Leaders from the Ak-Chin Indian Community, Gila River Indian Community and the city of Maricopa spoke to the crowd and gave words of encouragement to the players.

The NABI tournament began Monday and runs through July 15. For the full bracket visit the NABI site.

Seatbelts and airbags were lifesavers in a frightening crash south of Maricopa in November. (Steve Franklin photo)

Nov. 21 could have been a tragic day for three families.

Instead it was the beginning of a long road to recovery and extended lives.

A Maricopa father credits two factors for that – the use of seatbelts and the professionalism of the first responders from Ak-Chin Fire Department.

That morning, a T-bone collision on State Route 347 and Papago Road sent five people, including two teens, to the hospital.

Steve Franklin, a single father, was working in Oklahoma that day when he received a call from an unknown number. He almost didn’t answer, but a “sixth sense or a parent-sense” told him to pick up. It was the Chandler Regional Medical Center telling him his son Clifford had been in a terrible accident and suffered serious injuries.

Clifford Franklin, a senior at Maricopa High School, had spent the night at the home of his friend Alex. In the early morning, Alex’s father was driving the boys to school in a 2010 Dodge sedan. He took Papago to SR 347. Alex was in the front passenger seat and Clifford in the back.

At the intersection, a stop sign was missed, and the car Clifford was riding in pulled into the path of a vehicle traveling north from Stanfield.

Clifford’s last memory of the incident is Alex’s father saying, “Oh, crap.”

The couple in the northbound vehicle had no chance to stop and plowed into the passenger side where the teens were sitting.

“It was a hell of an impact,” Steve Franklin said.

Franklin knows this not from his son but from studying the remains of the car itself and the accounts of the first responders from ACFD.

“They were amazed any passengers were alive,” he said.

As it turned out, everyone was wearing a seatbelt, and airbags deployed properly.

Seatbelt use was a habit for Clifford since he was very young.

“You train them until it becomes a natural instinct,” Franklin said. “Obviously, he sees it’s been validated.”

But, he said, his son did not necessarily need the reminder. In recent years, Maricopa teens Clifford knew have died in traffic accidents when seatbelts were not fastened.

“We’ve seen enough of it,” Franklin said.

The shoulder belt Clifford clicked that morning was a lifesaver, according to the trauma doctor who spoke with Steve Franklin.

Franklin was also in awe of the ACFD crew, noting the difficult situation in the near darkness. Assessing five patients, most with serious injuries, the first responders also had to determine if ambulances or helicopters would be the best call.

They opted for ground transportation.

Clifford suffered a concussion, lacerated liver, lacerated right kidney, badly bruised right lung, fractured pelvic bone, facial lacerations and the fracture of a ligament tying the pelvis to the spine.

As he was placed into an ambulance, it was sunrise, which often coincides with a visit from the Amtrak train. That morning was no different. The ambulances were alerted to the hold-up at the tracks and took the long route down Farrell Road to go around and back to SR 347.

“Everything was going against them, and they survived,” Franklin said.

Since the crash, Clifford has gone through intense physical therapy to get back on his feet. Learning the rescue crew from Ak-Chin Fire Department was on duty Christmas Day, he and his father took treats to the first responders to say thank you.

Clifford Franklin went through weeks of therapy to be able to stand and visit the crew at Ak-Chin Fire Department. (Steve Franklin photo)
Clifford Franklin went through weeks of therapy to be able to stand and visit the crew at Ak-Chin Fire Department. (Steve Franklin photo)

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The Basket Dance is a traditional part of Ak-Chin cultural gatherings. Photo by R. Mason Callejas

By Mason Callejas

The Ak-Chin Him-Dak Museum hosted a cultural celebration in observance of Native American Recognition Day at Milton Paul Antone Park on Saturday.

The day of traditional dancing and exhibitions of native artisans kicked off with a 5K fun-run, which was then followed by activities and events for all ages. From basket dances to basket weaving, adults and children of the local Ak-Chin and Gila River Indian communities paid homage and lent reverence to their primordial customs.

Dancers from the Ak-Chin Indian Community and Gila River Indian Community taught and performed several different dances including the ancient “Hoop Dance” and traditional “Basket Dance.”

As the steady drum beats and melodic chants reverberated throughout the park, artisans painted, wove and molded items reflecting the spiritual intricacies of their people’s history and art forms that have survived over the generations.

Through vibrant artistic displays and ancestral practices the Phoenix Valley’s indigenous population is attempting to maintain their heritage and their traditions. However, these preservation techniques are not the only way. In fact, some think it’s not even the most important.

The Hoop Dance. Photo by R. Mason Callejas
The Hoop Dance. Photo by R. Mason Callejas

A new wave of indigenous blood is maturing within these communities and though they are the first generation of their people to not know a world without the Internet or smart phones, they are well aware of what most anthropologists and sociologists deem the most important aspect to cultural preservation — their language.

The Ak-Chin Youth Council is on the front lines of these preservation efforts and has made it one of its primary initiatives to promote the teaching and usage of their native language. Youth Council Vice President Steve Peters along with other members of the organization provided samples of a traditional homemade prickly-pear jelly and spoke to event goers about their goals and hopes for theirs and future generations of of Ak-Chin members.

Though fluent, Peters recognizes that he is unlike many others of his generation which is cause for concern.

“Language is important,” Peters said, “because some of the kids out here really don’t know the language.”

Photo by R. Mason Callejas
Photo by R. Mason Callejas

 

Artist rendering of the what the finished expansion may look like.

Expansion at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino means more than just 230 added hotel rooms. All of the venue’s dining establishments will have changes, and a new restaurant will be in the mix. The pool will also be replaced.

A ceremonial ground-breaking was June 28. The expansion is projected to be complete in 2018.

Robert Livingston, Harrah’s Ak-Chin general manager, led diners on a virtual walk-through of the expansion plans during an introduction of new menu items at The Range Steakhouse. The steakhouse is one of the eateries to undergo changes with the expansion.

1. A burger bar/steakhouse will be in the bottom level of the hotel tower. The steakhouse portion will be at the back and open for dinner. The burger bar will be open for lunch and dinner.

“One of the features of that steakhouse is going to be a mesquite grill wood-burning oven,” Livingston said. “It’s going to be an excellent piece, very unique piece for that restaurant.”

2. The restaurant bar, also called the lobby bar, will be next to the new hotel lobby.Biz-Harrahs-drinks2

3. The Buffet will stay at its location northwest of the casino floor, but it will expand into the area currently housing The Range. An Italian station with pizza will be added to the buffet options.

The buffet will also be served by the bar that is now inside The Range.

“One of the coolest things about the expansion is the access to the bar,” Livingston said. “We’ve struggled with alcoholic beverage service at the buffet. But we’re going to have access to the bar.”

4. The Agave, now serving breakfast and lunch, will become a three-meal restaurant.

“We may or may not do a makeover of that restaurant,” Livingston said. “We’re still trying to work through the budget of our expansion. That restaurant may stay the same and add the third meal or it may get a complete makeover.”

5. The Diamond Lounge, which occupies Agave in the afternoons, may instead move into the current 5,000-square-foot ballroom space. Already serving appetizers and drinks, it is considered “pretty much a restaurant” by staff.

6. A new ballroom is part of Phase 1 of the expansion. It is planned as an 18,000-square-foot multi-use space.

The hotel is adding 230 rooms to its tower.
The hotel is adding 230 rooms to its tower.

7. A brand new restaurant will have a wine bar with small-plate offerings.

8. A parking garage is also an early part of the expansion for guests who do not want to park under Maricopa’s summer sun.

9. Copper Cactus, the 24-hour quick-serve restaurant, will get added seating.

10. Dunkin Donuts, according to Livingston, is currently “kind of hidden away.” It will stay in the same location, but the expanded footprint of the property will make it much more visible.

11. The pool is getting a total makeover resulting in a “bigger pool and much nicer pool area,” Livingston said.

The plans are to renovate the swimming pool.
The plans are to renovate the swimming pool.

Hotel rooms next to the pool will have private patios.

“We’re going to take the pool experience and move it closer to the rooms,” Livingston said.


This article appears in the August issue of InMaricopa.

Ak-Chin Indian Community and its properties are hosting an array of events for the holiday.

Ak-Chin Southern Dunes hosts a four-person scramble starting at 7:30 a.m. on July 4. The event includes 18 holes with cart, buffet, complimentary bottled water and awards for best dressed and most patriotic. Cost is $50 per person plus tax. Register at 520-426-6827.

Ak-Chin Parks & Recreation hosts its annual Fourth of July Celebration at the recreation center. There will be pool activities from noon to 4 p.m. Then kids can enjoy the Inflatable Carnival from 4:30 to 8 p.m.

There will be a department hotdog eating contest, watermelon eating contest and talent show.

The fireworks will begin at dusk.

Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino gets the party started a little early on July 2 with great music from the Marshall Tucker Band starting at 8 p.m. On July 4, the casino will be giving away two free pool towels to Total Rewards members in the Ballroom from 2 to 6 p.m. That evening, Fortunate Son will be in the Lounge. The Buffet will be serving a BBQ-inspired menu.

UltraStar Multi-tainment Center at Ak-Chin Circle has an evening of fun planned. Starting at 5 p.m., enjoy the Slip & Slide, splash pad and more water entertainment outside for free.

From 5 to 8 p.m. enter to win free movies for a year. The winner will be announced before the Movies Under the Stars presentation of “Transformers 2007” after the fireworks. You must be present to win.

There will also be an outdoor BBQ for $16.95/adults and $8.95/kids. The menu includes tri tip, roasted corn, baked beans, BBQ chicken, potato salad, pasta salad, hamburgers, hotdogs, salad and cobbler.

Follow the UltraStar events on Facebook at Facebook.com/events/433198793538879.


This item appeared in the July issue of InMaricopa.

From left: Beth Amoroso, Harrah’s director of human resources, Angie Groeneveld, Harrah’s director of hospitality operations, Gabriel Lopez, Ak-Chin Indian Community Tribal Council, Ann Antone, Ak-Chin Indian Community Tribal Council, Chairman Robert Miguel, Ak-Chin Indian Community Tribal Council, Vice-Chairman Delia Carlyle, Ak-Chin Indian Community Tribal Council, Robert Livingston, Harrah’s general manager, Bambi Johnson, Harrah’s director of finance and administration, Michael Kintner, Harrah’s director of marketing and operations and April Stovall, Harrah’s surveillance and facilities manager. Submitted photo

With shovels in hand, Chairman Robert Miguel, along with members of the Ak-Chin Indian Community Tribal Council and executive leadership from Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino,  turned the dirt to commemorate the groundbreaking of the multi-million-dollar expansion at the hotel and casino.

The expansion will include a spa, a conference center with multi-use ballroom space, a parking garage, additional restaurants and more than 200 additional rooms. The hotel currently has 200 rooms. The expansion is estimated at $100 million.

“The Ak-Chin Indian Community is excited about this expansion that will provide our guests and visitors with the high-quality hospitality and entertainment that they have come to expect here at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino,” Miguel said.

According to Robert Livingston, general manager of Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino, this expansion will not only increase room availability and accommodate additional hotel guests, but will also afford the property the opportunity to host large-scale entertainment, conventions and other meetings.

“As one of a few full-service hotels and casinos in the area, this expansion will offer more options to visitors and guests throughout Pinal and Maricopa counties” Livingston said.

The general contractor for the project is Sundt|Yates; Thalden Boyd Emery (TBE) is the architect.

Chandra Reilly, Sundt project director commenting on behalf of the Sundt|Yates Joint Venture, said, “It is an groundbreaking-shovels-Harrah'shonor to be part of the Ak-Chin Indian Community’s economic evolution and continued partnership with Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino. This project has demanded the best ideas out of everyone involved, and we look forward to bringing those ideas to life over the next two years.”

For more information regarding the Ak-Chin Indian Community, Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino and future updates regarding the expansion, visit https://www.caesars.com/harrahs-ak-chin or www.ak-chin.nsn.us.

The 14th annual Native American Basketball Invitational (NABI), presented by the Ak-Chin Indian Community, Nike N7 and Seminole Tribe of Florida, will be leaving Phoenix and moving south to the Ak-Chin Indian Community and the city of Maricopa.

NABI was founded by Mark West, vice president of player programs for the Phoenix Suns, and GinaMarie Scarpa, former executive director of the AC Green Youth Foundation, named for the NBA “Iron Man” AC Green. Scarpa is now the CEO.

“We have had a successful run in the City of Phoenix, but now, after 14 years, it makes sense to move the tournament where our biggest support comes from, the Ak-Chin Indian Community,” Scarpa said. “The community has been our largest supporter since our inception in 2003. To bring the economic impact to the area is something that is important to us. Also, to have all NABI gyms within close proximity adds to the safety measures of the teams not having to travel miles to get to gyms all over the Phoenix metro area.

“A great added bonus, the athletes can spend their off time at the Ak-Chin Ultra Star Multi-tainment Center. The Center has movies, bowling, laser tag and plenty of places for the athletes to eat and enjoy NABI week.”

From June 26 through July 2, more than 1,200 Native high school age athletes, representing teams from across the United States and Canada, will compete in the largest all Native high school basketball tournament in the world.

“The Ak-Chin Indian Community has been a proud supporter of the NABI tournament since its founding in 2003,” said Robert Miguel, chairman of the Ak-Chin Indian Community.  “We are thrilled that the teams will be playing this year in Maricopa and look forward to showing off all our community has to offer.”

This summer’s tournament will feature more than 300 games, played over five days and will include a College and Career Fair, “Team Meet & Greet” Party and Educational Seminars. The NABI Gold Division Championship games will continue to be played at Talking Stick Resort Arena in downtown Phoenix, the home of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury. This year the Championship games will be played on July 3.

For more information about the NABI Invitational, game schedules and gym locations log on to the NABI official website www.nabifoundation.org or contact info@nabifoundation.org

Supporting sponsors of NABI include Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix Suns, Phoenix Mercury, JP Business Solutions and BEARD.

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Maricopa Chamber of Commerce took its monthly after-hours mixer to the Ak-Chin Indian Community, where the Him-Dak Museum and Archives played host for the event. Members were greeted Chairman Robert Miguel, museum staff, food from Vekol Market and rooftop dancing. They were able to tour the museum and the nearby historic school.

Maricopa High School Graduation is May 19 at 7:30 p.m. Speakers include Robert Miguel (submitted photo), Christian Price (photo by William Lange), Savannah Hull (photo by MHS Digital Photography), Siena Garcia (photo by MHS Digital Photography) and Principal Renita Myers (InMaricopa file photo).

When Robert Miguel speaks to the graduating seniors of Maricopa High School on Thursday, it won’t just be as chairman of the Ak-Chin Indian Community.

He is also speaking as the father of two of the graduates.

He is also marking the 30th anniversary of his own graduation from the same school.

Miguel can’t remember who spoke at his graduation in 1986, but he wants the Class of 2016 to have better recall.

“I’m going to tell them, ‘Remember the night and who’s sitting next to you,’” he said. “My class was the biggest at the time and it was 56 students. Eighty percent of them I’ve never seen since graduation. So look around, look beside you and see who’s there, because it might be the last time you see them.”

MHS has 336 graduating seniors.

He said being asked to be a speaker at graduation was emotional for him. “How many parents can say they were the guest speaker at their child’s graduation?” he said. “It just put the cherry on top of the ice cream.”

Maricopa High School graduation starts at 7:30 p.m. on May 19 at Ram Stadium.
Other speakers:
Mayor Christian Price
Principal Renita Myers
Valedictorian Savannah Hull
Salutatorian Sienna Garcia
Student Body President Ciera Reynolds
Senior Class President Cristina Lorayes
Class motto: “Remember yesterday, Dream for tomorrow, Live for today.”

In the past 30 years, he has watched a lot of changes at MHS. The growth is obvious, but he’s also pleased with the depth and diversity of some programs and “many more opportunities at the school than there were in my time,” particularly the students’ ability to get started in college while still in high school.

“The staff and officials try to adapt, and the growth approached them really, really quick, so they’re trying to play catch-up with some programs,” he said.

Miguel specifically noted the special-needs program. One of his daughters going through Thursday’s exercises is a special-needs student.

“I know they are behind in that, they’re lacking in that as far as staffing and the services they need to provide,” he said. “But I understand, because the growth hit them so vastly. Hopefully in the future they’ll improve the programming. But Maricopa’s a good school overall.”

Even as a teen, Miguel said, he knew he wanted to be a tribal leader, “but I didn’t know how I was going to get there.”

He said he wants this year’s seniors to know they will face many obstacles before they reach their goals. They will face different opportunities and failures, even different jobs than anticipated.

“They’re going to go through highs and lows, but it’s those things that are going to make you succeed and push you to be who you’re eventually going to become,” the chairman said.

Miguel said though he wanted to be in tribal leadership like his maternal grandfather, Jonas Miguel, who raised him, he worked as a farm laborer, worked in parks and recreation, and spent 17 years as a photojournalist for the community newspaper. He said now he sees how those careers are part of his understanding of tribal leadership.

He said words he’s lived by since junior high are “Failure is a part of success. If you’re afraid of failure, you’ll never succeed.” He said his grandfather told him “never to be afraid to go after what you want to become.”

He also credits several others with keeping him on the right path and believing in him. When Miguel was in high school, Police Chief Milton Paul Antone threw him in jail for no reason.

“After a couple of hours he came to my jail cell, and of course I was afraid. And he told me, ‘You know why I threw you in jail?’ And I said, ‘No, I don’t know why.’ And he told me basically I was hanging around with a bad crowd. I needed to make a decision. There’s a wrong road and a right road.”

Antone was later killed in the line of duty, but his effort to guide Miguel has had a 30-year impact.

“It was really important that he believed in me and made me make a choice to go right or left,” he said.

Besides the entire Miguel family and his cousins the Peters brothers – Cecil, David and Norbert – who took him under wing and supported him with advice and even financially, previous and current tribal council members have helped him become who he is now.

Though Miguel is an easy talker and accustomed to addressing large crowds, he’s nervous about speaking at graduation.

“My girls are going to be there,” he said. “But I’m living the dream, and it only gets better.”


The students listed below may or may not have met the requirements for graduating at the time of publication.

Sen. Jeff Flake spoke to local leaders in between tours of Copper Sky and the UltraStar Multi-tainment Center. Photo by Adam Wolfe

By Adam Wolfe

With the U.S. Senate out of session, Sen. Jeff Flake­­­­­­­­ spent much of the month visiting constituents around the state. Friday he met with Maricopa and Ak-Chin Indian Community officials in Maricopa.

Nearly 50 people representing the Ak-Chin community, city of Maricopa, Maricopa Unified School District and other public officials attended a luncheon at the Elements Event Center at Ak-Chin Circle.
Flake met with city officials at Copper Sky Multigenerational Complex prior to lunch and took a tour of UltraStar Multi-tainment Center afterward.

“I appreciate the partnership you have between the city of Maricopa and the Ak-Chin community,” Flake said. “It’s really great to see the contributions you made to Copper Sky. What a wonderful facility that is. I’d love to have something like that next door. Residents here are fortunate to have that.”

Flake was welcomed to the stage by Ak-Chin Indian Community Vice-Chairman Delia M. Carlyle and Maricopa Mayor Christian Price.

Referencing Ak-Chin’s strong ties to agriculture, Flake started his speech with an anecdote about his childhood growing up in a farming community. When he was 5, Flake said he stuck his finger “where he shouldn’t have” and lost the tip. However, his father re-attached it by wrapping it with a handkerchief, but finished his job before taking the younger Flake to the hospital. The story was received with laughter, and the light mood lasted throughout the event.

Flake addressed the water shortage in Lake Mead and new regulations that could directly affect agricultural in the area and electricity rates.

“We are likely to see a shortage declaration when the water hits 1,075 (feet) at Lake Mead,” Flake said. “Myself, Sen. (John) McCain and former Sen. (Jon) Kyl sat down several months ago with Gov. (Doug) Ducey and said, ‘How can we get all the stakeholders on the same page?’ Let’s figure how we can get some consent items that we can push in Washington. There’s going to be drought legislation moving through, probably initiated by the Californians who didn’t plan as well as Arizona did, and we want to make sure they don’t take our water.”

Flake said Arizona needs to improve the thinning of the forests to help improve the gathering of rainwater as well. He estimated 23 percent of rainwater is lost due to forest overgrowth.

Flake also addressed foreign policy. He said the Obama Administration should have held Iran accountable for more than just its nuclear weapons program, but he will support the Iran nuclear deal if it is ratified. Flake doubts there are enough votes in Congress to prevent it from moving forward.

The senator from Snowflake, Arizona, expressed his support of lifting sanctions against Cuba due to the economic boost it would provide American exports and the Cuban people.

Flake will return to Washington, D.C., when the Senate reconvenes Sept. 8.