Tribal leaders decry official-English plan
Jan. 19, 2005
 By Howard Fischer

PHOENIX - Tribal leaders Tuesday attacked efforts by some state lawmakers to enact English as the official language of Arizona.

Vivian Juan-Saunders, chairwoman of the Tohono O'odham Nation, told a special joint session of the Legislature that English will continue to be the primary language of this country.
"Our children learn it in our schools and we have no desire to change that," said Juan-Saunders, who also is president of the Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona. She said American Indians want their children to learn English.
"However, making people use only English in government-transacted business is reminiscent of the boarding-school era for American Indians, when speaking one's own language resulted in physical and verbal abuse administered by teachers and employees of the school," she told lawmakers during the annual event at the Capitol.
Kathy Kitcheyan, chairwoman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, was more blunt.
"In plain English to the state of Arizona, we don't like it and we don't want it," she said to legislators. "We as the first Americans never asked our visitors to speak a specific language."
But Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, sponsor of a constitutional measure to declare English as the state's official language, chided the tribal leaders for their comments.
"I'm always impressed with those people who get up and orate on issues that they haven't read," said Pearce, who was in the audience when the two women spoke. "And it was pretty apparent that they hadn't read it."
Pearce said nothing in the proposal affects how tribes conduct their own business. Nor, he said, does it bar state and local officials from communicating with constituents in any language.