(photo: US Vice President Kamala Harris
(July 6, 2023) Vice President Kamala Harris visited the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) today and spoke of the sacred bonds between the United States and sovereign Tribal Nations.
According to Gila River Governor, Stephen Roe Lewis, this official visit to his Arizona community was the Vice President’s first official visit to Indian Country. However, this was not their first meeting.
A few weeks ago, Lewis and other Native leaders met at the Vice President’s residence in Washington, DC, where he was introduced to funders for GRIC’s solar energy projects.
The Vice President herself mentioned this meeting herself, but the bulk of her speech touted the support the Biden administration has done for Native Americans. “President Joe Biden believes the bonds between our nations are sacred,” she said.
With a backdrop of three rows of Native young people, dressed in a variety of clothing styles, the VP stated that the school where she was speaking “is fully Native-built, Native-run and Native-owned” and that “schools like this are a symbol of sovereignty.”
Ms. Harris also mentioned the narrow survival of the Indian Child Welfare Act in the Supreme Court, which ensures Native children will remain in communities with schools that respect their culture.
The VP also said she and Joe Biden had invested $500 million in Native businesses, including community banks. She also stated a commitment to Voting Rights, including placing voter registration offices in locations of the Indian Health Service for maximum public access.
Vice President Harris praised Gila River for reducing its dependence on the over-used Colorado River, and Native people in general for having managed the land well for millenia in the past.
Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) is home to two tribal groups, the Pima/Akimel O-odham and Maricopa, and is located on 583 square miles adjacent to the city of Phoenix, Arizona. GRIC has a number of agricultural and other businesses, and an official population of over 11,000.