This sesquicentennial year offers a unique opportunity to honor the special relationship between the City of Tempe and its neighbor to the northeast, The Salt River Pima – Maricopa Indian Community (SRP-MIC). While our two communities regularly work together overcoming common challenges and pursuing shared values and goals, this relationship also serves as a continuing reminder of the rich local cultural heritage pre-dating Tempe’s formation and the strong connection SRP-MIC still maintains with the natural and cultural resources within our community’s landscape.
The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRP-MIC) is comprised of two distinct Native American tribes: the Onk Akimel O’odham (Pima) and the Xalychidom Piipaash (Maricopa). The center of its aboriginal territory is located in what is now called the ‘Phoenix Valley’, but villages and farms previously occupied vast stretches of land along the Gila and Salt Rivers. The ancestral landscape, containing what is now the City of Tempe, remains sacred to the SRP-MIC community, reflecting cultural values that are central to their way of life and identity.
SRP-MIC oral history and the song culture are specifically tied to landscape features and desert ecology, including the iconic landforms that define Tempe’s natural skyline, each representing its own historic, cultural, and religious significance. In fact, the month of June represents the beginning of the lunar New Year within the O’odham culture in concert with saguaro fruit ripening for the summer harvest season. Such aspects of the desert landscape serve as tangible reminders for the SRP-MIC about shared attitudes, goals, and practices that characterize who they are, where they belong, and how they have related to each other in the past, today, and the future.
Earlier this year, Tempe City Council adopted Resolution R2021.08 officially acknowledging the O’odham and Piipaash cultural affiliation with the lands contained within the City of Tempe’s municipal boundaries. This recognition not only emphasized the significance of their present-day connections with the landscape but also of past generations, exemplified by archeological heritage protection throughout the city.
This new resolution reflects decades of collaboration between the SRP-MIC and the City of Tempe. Working closely as neighbors, our two communities actively share resources and join forces on strategic planning initiatives benefiting common goals and values. This has included Emergency Management, Transportation, Historical Preservation, Arts & Culture, Sustainability, Human Services, Economic Development, and Town Lake Planning and Development. SRP-MIC community members also actively serve on several Tempe city commissions, fostering further engagement and communication.
Most recently, Hayden Butte Preserve (ʼOidbaḍ Doʼag) is serving as a focal point of cooperation between our communities, with SRP-MIC and the City of Tempe Historic Preservation divisions working closely to protect the preserve’s long-term cultural and natural integrity through the ‘Hayden Butte Management Plan’. Following years of effort, the 30-foot communication tower, broadcast house, and concrete platform were even removed in 2019 honoring the butte’s natural profile. SRP-MIC also regularly collaborates with the City of Tempe on continuing efforts to remove graffiti and mitigate other human impacts damaging cultural and natural elements within the preserve.