City of Tucson and Pascua Yaqui Tribe enter formal intergovernmental agreement

Pictured: Pascua Yaqui Chairman Robert Valencia.(Photo: Pascua Yaqui Tribe)

Seven-zero vote during September 4 council meeting

News Release

Pascua Yaqui Tribe

The City of Tucson and the Pascua Yaqui Tribe have entered into a formal intergovernmental agreement (IGA) that expresses the City’s support for the transfer of approximately 15 acres of tribally owned land located within the City of Tucson to the United States to be held in trust for the benefit of the Tribe. The intergovernmental agreement will provide a structure for the City and the Tribe to operate under if the federal government approves the trust acquisition. The proposed trust lands are located in the traditional Yaqui neighborhood of Old Pascua Village. 

Approved by the Tucson City Council yesterday, the intergovernmental agreement lays out the roles and responsibilities for both the City and the Tribe and establishes an oversight group that can help resolve areas of concern if they develop. 

Pascua Yaqui Chairman Robert Valencia said the two governments have been discussing this agreement for more than four years. 

“We are pleased that these discussions have brought us to the point of finally being able to enter into a formal intergovernmental agreement with the City,” he said. “We hope to preserve our tribe’s cultural areas, where ceremonies have been held for over 100 years and also use the parcel, where the old theater is located, to engage in economic development.” 

Valencia said economic development is extremely important to the tribe because the tribal population is growing, and they must continually find new ways to support additional membership. 

“Lands with strong potential for economic development, such as the theater parcel, must be preserved in trust for the permanent benefit of our tribal members,” he continued. “We strongly believe that placing these lands into trust will be beneficial to both the City and the Tribe. We are proud of the great relationship that we have with the City of Tucson, and feel we are great partners in the region. This intergovernmental agreement is a natural extension of that partnership and we believe it will guide the future development of this area, which is so important to both the Tribe and the City.” 

The Tribe is currently studying a number of potential economic development projects for the property in order to determine what sort of project will provide the most economic benefits for the tribe and the local community. Development of a casino on the property is not imminent and is not currently authorized under law, but because gaming has been considered as one potential option for the site, both the City and the Tribe felt it was important to include a specific process for future discussions if gaming is pursued at the property.   

“In our view, this intergovernmental agreement represents an innovative and creative approach on the part of the City of Tucson and the Pascua Yaqui Tribe,” Valencia said. “It’s an approach that elevates communication and cooperation above all else. We are confident this will result in mutual benefits not only for the Tribe and City of Tucson, but for the residents themselves.”

About The Pascua Yaqui Tribe

The Pascua Yaqui Tribe is a federally recognized tribe of Yaqui Native Americans in southern Arizona encompassing five communities: New Pascua – the reservation, Old Pascua – in Tucson,

Barrio Libre – South Tucson, Marana – northwest of Tucson, and Guadalupe – southeast suburb of Phoenix. The tribe gained recognition by the United States government on Sept. 18, 1978. The Pascua Yaqui people descended from the Yaqui people of Mexico who first settled in the United States near Nogales and south Tucson in the early 1800s. In the early 20th century, the tribe began to expand into settlements north of Tucson. There are approximately 22,000 registered members of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe. For additional information, visit https://www.pascuayaqui-nsn.gov/.

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