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Ak-Chin Community Council has declared a State of Emergency due to the growing public health threat posed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The Community has yet to report a positive COVID-19 case, but confirmed case numbers are growing quickly in Pinal County and across Arizona.

“This emergency declaration authorizes AK-Chin leaders to take all steps necessary to protect our people from this dangerous viral outbreak,” said Ak-Chin Chairman Robert Miguel. “We’ve activated our Emergency Operation Center to centralize the Tribe’s disease response efforts, and now have authorization to utilize all necessary resources, including equipment, manpower and more, to meet this historic challenge.

“COVID-19 is a fast-evolving threat. If required, we are prepared to quickly take additional actions to safeguard Community residents, visitors and employees.”

The emergency declaration authorizes Chairman Miguel and Community leaders to protect public health by:

  • Activating the Emergency Operation Center to coordinate the Tribe’s response efforts;
  • Allowing utilization of all necessary funds, resources and equipment to mitigate the outbreak;
  • Ordering public facilities to be disinfected, as necessary;
  • Identifying specific Tribal employees to receive specialized COVID-19 training;
  • Coordinating and receiving technical assistance from local, state, federal and tribal authorities.

The emergency declaration is the Community Council’s latest action regarding COVID-19. Previously, the Council ordered closed until at least April 2 Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino & Resort and the Ultra-Star Multi-Tainment Center at Ak-Chin Circle. Additionally, all in-person, Community-sponsored events, programs and gatherings have been canceled until further notice, including the Recreation Center, Elder Center, Him-Dak EcoMuseum and more.

“Now is the time for calm, common sense action to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Miguel said. “We ask that Ak-Chin members take extra care to avoid groups of people, stay home as much as possible, and be vigilant in washing hands and practicing good hygiene. Be especially mindful of elders, young children and other individuals who may be vulnerable to this disease. We’re all in this together.”

Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino has donated 15 pallets of food to the Ak-Chin Indian Community, which will distribute it to the Community’s elders and families in need.

“We are glad that we were able to donate this food to the Ak-Chin Indian Community and that they will be able to provide this support to their tribal elders and needy families,” said Robert Livingston, general manager.  “The impact of COVID-19 is being felt around the Community and this donation will go a long way in assisting their most vulnerable members.”

Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino has temporarily closed its resort and casino effective through at least April 2.

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Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Braving the rain, participants in the Ak-Chin Community’s Masik Tas Light Parade shone with the Christmas spirit on a dark night Saturday along Farrell Road. The thirty entries were decked out in lights and competing in honors in several categories. Masik Tas, Ak-Chin’s “birthday” celebration, continues this weekend with a carnival, rodeo and music.

Carnival rides, music, games, rodeo and much more are part of this month's Masik Tas.

What: Masik Tas
Where: Ak-Chin Circle Field & Arena, 16000 N. Maricopa Road
When: Dec. 5-15
Dec. 5-8: Basketball tournaments
Dec. 7, 7 p.m.: Light Parade on Farrell Road
Dec. 9, 11 a.m.: Charity Golf Tournament, Ak-Chin Southern Dunes
Dec. 13, 8 a.m.: All-Indian Junior Rodeo
Dec 13, 4-10 p.m.: Carnival
Dec. 13, 4 p.m.: Bull Bash
Dec. 14, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.: Carnival
Dec. 14-15, noon: All-Indian Rodeo
Dec. 14, 7 p.m.: Ramon Ayala Concert
Dec. 15, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.: Carnival
Info: MasikTas.Ak-Chin.nsn.us

By Fran Lyons

Masik Tas is an event held annually for the last 12 years to commemorate the formal recognition of the Ak-Chin Indian Community.

Masik Tas is a phrase derived from the O’odham language meaning birthday celebration. It is also a joyful festival and an opportunity for neighboring tribes and all the communities of Maricopa to participate. It a time of coming together and recognizing unity and shared values.

Agriculture is the foundation of the Ak-Chin lifestyle and informs the culture and traditions of the community.

“Farming is our backbone and always will be,” Chairman Robert Miguel said. “We have 16,000 acres designated to growing fruits, vegetables and traditional crops such as corn and alfalfa.”

All are invited to join with the Ak-Chin people as they celebrate Masik Tas. Highlights include the Light Parade Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. and a concert by Ramon Ayala Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. At the carnival, kids age 3 and over can ride all day for $10. Kids under 3 get in free.

Ak-Chin Chairman Robert Miguel

The history of Ak-Chin in relatively recent years began when President William Howard Taft signed a document in 1912 establishing the land for the Maricopa Reservation. Originally provided over 47,000 acres, which was later reduced, farming continued on the 22,000 acres the tribe still maintains today.

In 1961, the tribe’s government was formally organized under the Federal Articles of Association. The Ak-Chin Community is governed by a five-member tribal council. Its governing body oversees all aspects of tribal and community affairs.

The O’odham word Ak-Chin translates to “mouth of the arroyo or wash” or “place that loses itself into the sand or ground.” The term refers to a type of farming that relies on washes – seasonal food plains created by winter snows and summer rains.

Our jalapenos are distributed to Pace Picante for salsa, potatoes to Frito Lay, Poor Brothers and In-n-Out Burger, and our pecans are shipped overseas.

“The Ak-Chin have always been farmers and have followed the Vekol Wash.” Miguel said.

The first major enterprise of the community was Ak-Chin Farms, which currently harvests over 15,000 acres, making it one of the largest farming communities in the United States.

“Our jalapenos are distributed to Pace Picante for salsa, potatoes to Frito Lay, Poor Brothers and In-n-Out Burger, and our pecans are shipped overseas,” the chairman said.

It also goes without saying this is how the Ak-Chin contribute to and nourish their own community and surrounding neighbors. Other crops, found in the wild, are harvested to support the creative endeavors of the community artisans.
“There are only 10 traditional basket-weavers in the community that can continue and pass on the heritage and artistry of this gift of beauty,” Miguel said.

The community is well known for the unique patterns and intricate design of the baskets they create, which will be seen during Masik Tas.

This story appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.

Notah Begay III
Notah Begay III

Notah Begay III, current NBC Sports and Golf Channel commentator and a four-time winner on the PGA Tour, will host two, free one-hour golf clinics  Aug. 10 at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club.

Begay, the most decorated Native American golfer in history, will host a kids clinic for ages 16 and under at 8 a.m. and a complimentary golf clinic for adults-only at 10 a.m. In addition, Begay will be the special guest at the Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Bogle Vineyards Wine Dinner at 5 p.m. that evening in the club’s Arroyo Grille.

“Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club and Troon create a world-class golf experience that challenges golfers of all skill levels and provides a unique opportunity to grow the game in Native American communities,” Begay said. “I’m excited to participate in a day of activities that highlights the successes and attractions of the Ak-Chin Indian Community and gives me an opportunity to teach the game to community youth.”

During the golf clinics, Begay and the Ak-Chin Southern Dunes PGA professional staff will help attendees with the fundamentals of golf and sharpening the swings. Registration is required and space is limited for the golf clinics. Priority registration is available for Ak-Chin Indian Community Members. Register for the golf clinics by emailing Devin Lowe at dlowe@troon.com or by calling 520-426-6830.

“We are excited and deeply honored to be hosting Notah Begay, the most successful Native American golfer in history of the PGA Tour, at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club. Notah has always been very philanthropic with growing the game in Native lands and his appearance on the 10th will be a special memory for all in attendance,” said Brady Wilson, PGA, general manager, Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club.

Begay will be the special guest at the Bogle Vineyards Wine Dinner. For $65 per person (plus tax and gratuity), the Wine Dinner includes a five course meal with each course paired with a different Bogle Vineyards wine. Bogle Vineyards wines will be available for discounted purchase, with a two bottle minimum purchase per person required. Reservations are required and attendees must be 21 years or older. Wine Dinner reservations can be made by calling 520-426-6832.

Begay, the only full-blooded Native American to have played on the PGA Tour, was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Begay secured a scholarship to Stanford University, where he earned a degree in economics in addition to earning All-American honors three times and leading the golf team to a National Championship in 1994. In addition to winning four PGA Tour tournaments, Begay became only the third player in the history of professional golf to shoot 59 in a professional event. He partnered with good friend Tiger Woods in the 2000 President’s Cup.

When Begay is not on the golf course, he dedicates his time to positively impacting the Native American community. In 2005, Begay launched The Notah Begay III (NB3) Foundation. The Foundation works to battle obesity and diabetes in the Native American youth. In addition, Begay owns a golf course development firm and works exclusively with Native communities to develop world-class golf properties.

“The Ak-Chin Indian Community is excited and honored to have one of the more visible Native Americans throughout the United States provide a clinic at our Southern Dunes Golf Club, which is rated among the top golf courses in Arizona by Golfweek magazine,” said Ak-Chin Tribal Chairman Robert Miguel. “Notah Begay will not only provide a wonderful clinic for our children and members, but his presence will inspire and motivate all in attendance, in particular Native Americans, that their dreams can become a reality through hard work, desire, motivation and support.”

Golf Landscape: Southern Dunes Golf Club. Credit: Allan Henry / ahenry.com

Jesus Escalante (PCSO)

A Maricopa man faces an assault charge after an arrest that involved both Maricopa and Ak-Chin police departments.

According to MPD, Jesus Escalante, 43, notified police Monday that Andrea Trujillo was staying at the Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino Hotel and was abusing drugs. MPD contacted ACPD for a welfare check and was told the woman was there and “severely bruised.”

MPD spoke to Trujillo at the hotel. Officers described bruising to her chin, arm and shoulder. She claimed Escalante had assaulted her earlier in the day.

She said she and Escalante had argued Sunday at a residence on West Lococo Street about his feelings of being disrespected and she claimed he punched her in the mouth. A witness in the home told police she thought the incident occurred Saturday and said she did not see Escalante punch her friend because she left the room when they started arguing.

At some point, the two women left the Smith Farms residence to stay the night at the casino hotel. They returned to the home Monday morning, according to the report. They told police Escalante again became angry and chased Trujillo around with a dust pan.

They claimed Escalante grabbed Trujillo and pushed her against a wall and struck her with his elbows.

Escalante denied the accusations, claiming the alleged victim was known for hitting herself and was the aggressor.

MPD took Escalante into custody, noting he “showed no concern about being arrested and stated he just wants Andrea to get help.” He was booked at Pinal County jail on recommended charges of assault and disorderly conduct.

Photos by Jim Headley

The 2019 Ak-Chin Smash in the Sun/World Long Drive began Friday morning with qualifying at 8 a.m. Final qualifying was Friday afternoon. The master’s division takes place Saturday, open division is Sunday and Monday and the woman’s division is on Tuesday. The open and women’s final will be Tuesday from 1 to 3 p.m. and will be broadcast live on the Golf Channel from Ak-Chin Circle next to UltraStar Multi-tainment Center.

Native American Parent Advisory Committee at Maricopa Unified School District hosted the Native American Regalia Fashion Show Thursday at Saddleback Elementary. Students, Ak-Chin royalty and Arizona State University represented an array of cultures that honored family in their designs. Miss Indian ASU Kyla Jade Silas, Mr. Indian ASU Randal (RJ) Morin and other Sun Devils spoke to local youngsters and their parents about educational opportunities beyond high school.


Sydney Powell was arrested Jan. 13 after she allegedly hit her boyfriend in the face twice while he was driving south on John Wayne Parkway.

According to a Maricopa Police probable cause statement, a witness reported a man and a woman fighting inside a Buick two-door coupe and provided police with an Arizona license plate number about 2 p.m. on Sunday.

A vehicle matching the description was seen by an officer in the parking lot of Circle K on John Wayne Parkway. The officer pulled into the parking lot and was assisted by an Ak-Chin Police officer.

The Ak-Chin officer interviewed Powell and told the Maricopa officer Powell struck the man “twice in the face because she was upset that a female was calling him,” the probable cause statement reports.

She told the MPD officer she was sitting in the passenger seat and noticed a female was texting her boyfriend on his cell phone.

Later the MPD officer spoke with the man and he said he “started driving to the barbershop and an unknown female contacted him via telephone,” police reports state.

He said his girlfriend became angry when she observed that another woman was trying to contact him “and started hitting him open and closed handed,” according to the report. He said during the altercation, a soda was spilled in the vehicle and he pulled into Circle K to clean it up.

The officer noted two scratch marks on his face during the interview.

Powell was arrested at the scene and booked into the Pinal County Jail.

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1. Call 520-568-3246 or email marketing@leaseakchin.com for basic information or to arrange a tour of the property
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3. Review by Ak-Chin Industrial Park Board
4. Board advises applicant of approval process and facilitates progression
5. Applicant meets with Board and Ak-Chin Planning Dept
6. Board representative prepares a Preliminary Site Plan Application (PSPA) and submits to Planning
7. Planning holds Technical Assistance Committee (TAC) meeting for Board representative and applicant to present project and respond to questions
8. PSPA comments submitted to Planning; Planning forwards to Board representative
9. Planning submits Application to Ak-Chin Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z)
10. P&Z meets to review and vote on PSPA
11. P&Z denies project as proposed to move forward or forwards to Ak-Chin Finance & Legal for review
12. If approved, it is forwarded to Ak-Chin Council who authorizes project to proceed or does not approve it to proceed as proposed
13. If approved, the same process is followed with a more detailed Site Development Plan Application

Photo by Jim Headley

Rodeo at Ak-Chin Indian Community’s Masik Tas always includes a junior rodeo for Native American children, and this year was no exception. The many competitive events included mutton bustin’, roping, stick-horse races and bull riding. Though a light-hearted affair overall, a teen was reported to have been seriously injured in the bull riding and was transported from the rodeo grounds to a medical center. The main rodeo continued Sunday morning with jackpot team roping. MasikTas.ak-chin.nsn.us/rodeo

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Photo by Jim Headley

The Gin Blossoms, Tempe-based favorites, played a free concert at Ak-Chin Circle for Ak-Chin Indian Community’s annual Masik Tas on Friday. Vertical Horizon was the opening act.

Photos by Jim Headley

The Masik Tas Light Parade again lit up the night this year on Farrell Road through the Ak-Chin community. The Dec. 8 event included entries from Ak-Chin, Maricopa and beyond.

Chairman Robert Miguel was part of last year's Light Parade for Masik Tas. Photo by Victor Moreno

By Michelle Chance

December marks a yearly celebration for the Ak-Chin Indian Community, where Maricopa’s longtime neighbors welcome the public to partake in various free events over two weekends.

The Masik Tas celebration, now in its 11th year, is known for its headlining concert acts, the crowd-drawing carnival, electric light parade, cultural dances and rodeos.

The events celebrate the formal recognition of the Ak-Chin Indian Community and its government.

“This is our early birthday present and Christmas gift to the public, so come out and participate with us and have some fun,” said Robert Miguel, chairman of the Ak-Chin Indian Community.

Cultural entertainment, sporting events and a parade return to Masik Tas with a lineup that spans a weekend filled with music, dance and fair ride thrills.

Maricopa resident Elena Reinhardt looks forward every year to hearing Ak-Chin’s announcement of their next musical act.

“Gin Blossoms is one of my favorites, so I will definitely be there,” Reinhardt said.

Vertical Horizon will open the free Gin Blossoms show Dec. 14 at Ak-Chin Circle, and it will conclude with fireworks. The end-of-year celebration is boasted by the community’s chairman as one with a welcoming, family atmosphere.

“You’re a part of our family that weekend,” Miguel said. “Our house is your house.”

Nov. 30-Dec. 2 All-Indian Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament
Dec. 1, 1 to 3 p.m. Miss and Junior Miss Ak-Chin Pageant at St. Francis Feast House
Dec. 7 Elder Chair Volleyball
Dec. 9 Toka/Songivu’l Traditional Games
Dec. 10, 10 a.m. Masik Tas Golf Tournament at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes
Dec. 8, 7 p.m. Masik Tas Celebration Light Parade on Farrell Road (To participate, visit MasikTas.ak-chin.nsn.us.)
Dec. 14, 6 p.m. gates open, 10 p.m. fireworks Gin Blossoms headline free concert at Ak-Chin Circle
Dec. 14-16 Free, family-friendly carnival with fun zone and petting zoo at Ak-Chin Circle
Dec. 15-16, noon to 5 p.m. Traditional performances and cultural demonstrations performed at Ak-Chin Field
Dec. 15, 6 p.m. Vaila Dance
Dec. 15, 9 a.m. Junior Rodeo, riding events and roping events, including a bull bash and wild horse race

Gin Blossoms return for a free concert at Masik Tas. Submitted photo

This story appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.

Dan Miller of Ak-Chin STEAM Foundation invites the community to STEAM Day at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center.

Science, technology, engineering, arts and math take the spotlight on National STEAM Day Nov. 8.

The Maricopa Ak-Chin STEAM Foundation will feature STEAM-related, hands-on demonstrations for the whole family from 4-7 p.m. at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center. The event is sponsored by the Pinal County Board of Supervisors.

Santa Rosa and Saddleback elementary schools will demonstrate engineering activities. There will also be coding, virtual reality, 3D printing and STEAM in art. Business and college organizations will offer STEAM exhibits and activities, too.

STEAM Day is supported by the Arizona SciTech Festival, which will have Street Team members leading and showcasing the “STEMonstrations.” Come meet the newest chief science officers from Maricopa, Pinal County and Arizona.

The STEAM Foundation’s goal is to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s workforce by increasing kids’ opportunities for engagement and awareness of STEAM-related disciplines.


What: STEAM Day
When: Nov. 8, 4-7 p.m.
Where: UltraStar Multi-tainment Center, 16000 N. Maricopa Road
How much: Free
Info: Dan Miller, President/CEO, Maricopa Ak-Chin STEAM Foundation, Inc., dan.miller@maricopasteam.org, 520-840-3727
Donna Jagielski, Technology Integration specialist, MUSD, djagielski@musd20.org, 520-568-5100 ext. 1086.

This item appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.

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.”

  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