Arizona Community Press | www.azcommunitypress.org
Santan, AZ- Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) members enjoyed a night of music, information and resistance against the Loop 202 freeway on December 1st, where a No Build awareness concert was held at the Santan ballfield. Musicians from Gila River, Salt River, Tohono O’odham Nation, Navajo Nation, and Phoenix came together to support GRIC members organizing against the freeway. Speakers at the concert who oppose the freeway advocated for the Pangea Corporation, the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) and the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) to respect last February’s community-wide No Build victory in a vote about the proposed freeway.
Throughout the concert, the sounds of ska, hip hop and punk were performed to a crowd of over 60 people. The show featured Alex Soto of Shining Soul (Phoenix/Tohono O’odham), MC Optimal (Salt River), Lo Cash Ninjas (Navajo Nation), Criss Cross Salad Toss (Phoenix), Travis James (Phoenix) and finished with the sounds of Gila River’s own Requiem.
Speakers from the community spoke about the potential negative environmental, health and cultural impacts the Loop 202 would bring, and encouraged the mostly younger crowd to take action against the freeway in the months and years to come. Councilman Barney Enos Jr., from Santan/District Four, was in attendance and spoke at the event in support of No Build. Enos said of the event, “It is good to see so many gathered and involved with this event. It is our responsibility to do what is right and be diligent in our efforts to preserve our Community and our land. I share your responsibility. It is reassuring to know that what we are all speaking up for is not for our immediate benefit, but for the benefit for our grandchildren and theirs…a project such as this has minimal reward or satisfaction and we can do better. No matter how much you want to look at it or see it for something it isn’t, no means no.”
Despite the event’s focus towards the Gila River youth, elders and community members of all ages were in attendance, along with tribal members from nearby Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and the Tohono O’odham Nation. No Build shirts were available for a suggested donation throughout the event, with all funds going towards future No Build organizing efforts.
“The main objective of the show was to bring awareness to the community about the freeway. The older generation is more aware of it, but youth in Gila River have little to no idea of what is going on. In a sense, the concert was about getting youth to learn about issues in their community,” said Andrew Pedro from Sacaton. Pedro is the drummer for the band Requiem, and is one of the youth who organized the benefit.
“A multi-genre concert seemed like the best way to bring the younger generation together, to listen to music and hear the speakers talk about why it is important to stop this freeway. They also found ways they can stay updated and how to help out. It also gave non-O’odham, such as some of the bands, a chance to support our fight to protect sacred land and to show O’odham there is resistance to the freeway in the city as well.”
Also in attendance were many non-O’odham supporters who oppose the Loop 202. The No South Mountain Freeway group from Phoenix set up an information booth with pamphlets against the freeway. In addition to the many negative impacts expressed by GRIC members, non-O’odham No Build supporters also oppose the urban sprawl of Phoenix upon GRIC lands, as well as unsustainable regional growth. The Sun Corridor was one example given of that, which is a transportation and trade route centered on a “megacity” covering the area between Phoenix and Tucson, with little or no input from the O’odham people whose land is in that area.
The Sun Corridor is one part of the CANAMEX trade corridor, a massive superhighway spanning from Canada to Mexico. The CANAMEX Corridor is largely backed by transportation officials and politicians, while most of the public has not been informed of the environmental impacts of such a large construction project. These were some of the reasons why non-O’odham No Build supporters are against the freeway.
No Build organizers and community members expressed their gratitude to the youth who put on the awareness concert, and were happy to see young people take action against the 202.
“In the end I saw youth picking up zines, buying No Build shirts, donating to our efforts, signing up for e-mail alerts, and just having a good time,” Pedro went on to say. “Everyone there seemed to have a positive reaction to the show. I’ve had a lot of great feedback and many people hope that there will be another awareness show soon.”
This story was originally posted on Gila River Against Loop 202.