The Ak-Chin Indian Community cried trespassing on Thursday, halting Maricopa’s construction crew just as they were about to forge the link between John Wayne Parkway and Interstate 10. In response, Maricopa Mayor Nancy Smith isn’t backing down — she’s daring the tribe to play by the rules.

Smith’s ultimatum: Either give a green light to the permits granted by Pinal County and the Arizona Department of Transportation for the critical John Wayne Parkway and Sonoran Desert Parkway intersection work, or get axed from the project.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Sacaton has thrown its weight behind Ak-Chin’s claims, issuing cease-and-desist orders. The federal agency accused the city of flouting a Sept. 1 plea to halt construction until it granted the legal right-of-way necessary to conduct work near Ak-Chin’s casino and entertainment complex.

But in a letter from Smith to Ak-Chin leaders last night, the mayor said the tribe’s noncompliance “poses a serious safety concern” as the purpose-made parkway project — now more than a decade in the works — nears completion.

“If the city is unable to install traffic signals, we will still open the Sonoran Desert Parkway for vehicular traffic, even though this would require an alternative permanent traffic condition at the intersection to ensure the safety of the public,” Smith warned.

Smith said the city will commence reworked plans at that intersection Monday, swapping the long-planned traffic signal for stop signs and blocking access to reservation land from the new freeway.

Maricopa will start work on this alternative traffic solution Monday at the intersection of John Wayne Parkway and the Sonoran Desert Parkway.[City of Maricopa]
Maricopa will start work on this alternative traffic solution Monday at the intersection of John Wayne Parkway and the Sonoran Desert Parkway.
[City of Maricopa]
Any future plans to connect traffic signals there and allow access to the entertainment complex “would be at the sole expense of the Ak-Chin Indian Community,” Smith said.

Maricopa spokesperson Quinn Konold told InMaricopa yesterday “the city is confident in its stance on the issue” as it vies for “timely completion of the Sonoran Desert Parkway.”

Ak-Chin is on the clock with just two days to decide whether to follow through with original plans or risk hitting the eject button. Tribal leaders are mum since receipt of Smith’s letter.

“For decades, the Ak-Chin Indian Community has been a good neighbor to the city of Maricopa, so it is deeply disappointing city officials have chosen a path of confrontation instead of cooperation when it comes to roadwork on Desert Sonoran Parkway” Ak-Chin Chairman Robert Miguel said yesterday. “On behalf of the Ak-Chin people, we will pursue all remedies at our disposal to defend our sovereignty and ensure the law is properly followed.”


  1. Federal law trumps city and state. The tribe has to give easements and permission prior to construction. Also she cannot block commerce access to the reservation lands in any way. They should of gotten permissions and easements.

    • That ROW was transferred from Pinal County to the city back in September and finalized with ADOT in December. The BIA never responded to the change within the 60 day process and did not formally respond until May. The contention, from the way I read the older article, is that particular ROW, is not part of the construction process for the Parkway, but is being lumped in as one project. Would that not make it a separate issue from the Parkway construction? From how I read it, they aren’t blocking access to the reservation. You will not be able to go straight when they install stop signs. You can go right or left and enter at the Ferrell light or the casino hotel parking lot… just not straight to the main entrance.

    • Agreed. Smith issuing an ultimatum is childish. The Ak-Chin’s nation has provided many benifits to Maricopa & its’ citizens. For Smith to not sit down with the leaders is arrogany. As stated above “Federal law trumps city and state” & the Bureau of Indian Affairs trump the city of Maricopa.