13th Annual Apache Alliance held in San Carlos

Attending the 13th Annual Apache Alliance in San Carlos are Alliance officers (from left) Vice President Bernadine Burnette of Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, President Gwendena Lee-Gatewood of White Mountain Apache Tribe, Secretary/Treasurer Terry Rambler of San Carlos Apache Tribe and Chairwoman Lori Gooday Ware of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe.

SAN CARLOS — The 13th Annual Apache Alliance Summit took place at the Apache Gold Casino on Nov. 11, hosted by Chairman Terry Rambler of the San Carlos Apache Tribe (SCAT). Alliance President Gwendena Lee-Gatewood, chairwoman of the White Mountain Apache Tribe (WMAT), presided.

Gatewood stated they were grateful to Rambler and the council for hosting the summit this year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 summit was virtual. The last time the Alliance met in person was 2019 when it was hosted by the WMAT at Hon Dah. It was mandated that all participants wear masks for the 2021 summit at San Carlos.

The Apache Alliance is made up of nine tribes, the White Mountain Apache Tribe, San Carlos Apache Tribe, Yavapai-Apache Nation, Ft. Sill Apache Tribe, Jicarilla Apache Tribe, Mescalero Apache Tribe, Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, Tonto Apache Tribe and Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation.

According to a post by Rambler on his Facebook page, “representatives of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, Fort Sill Apache Tribe, Mescalero Apache Tribe, and the Lipan Apaches were present.”

Vice President of the Alliance is President Bernadine Burnette of Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation and Chairman Rambler is Secretary/Treasurer.

“The alliance originated back in the early 70’s when three courageous leaders — the late Chairman Lupe, Buck Kitcheyan and Wendell Chino, came together and said, ‘Us Apache people need to unite together in solidarity on our issues related to natural resources, education, economy, housing — every facet of who we are, in a united front to accomplish our goals, and it will stand in even more united strength.’ And, I am very humbled that, that organization is still standing and going forward today,” said Lee-Gatewood.

All three of the original leaders are now deceased. Lupe was the Chairman of the WMAT, Kitcheyan was Chairman of the SCAT and Chino was President of the Mescalero Apache nation.

A number of items were on the agenda including annual reports by the executive officers. The strategic plan, as a part of the reports, was listed for further discussion later in the meeting with a focus on the five key areas of advocacy. Other speakers included Louis Lorenzo, Jr. of the SCAT, sharing the Apache Creation Story; Ann Marie Chischilly, Esquire from the Office of Native American Initiatives, Northern Arizona University; the COVID-19 story by Rambler; Twila Cassadore & Seth Pilsk of the SCAT on the Apache Diet Project; and former SCAT Chairman Wendsler Nosie, Sr. on an update of the Save Oak Flat Act.

Lee-Gatewood said she is very happy that during her tenure as president that the alliance has applied for and been awarded some grants. They have been working on economic development, small business administration and working with BIA outreach. She said some of the initiatives they have done include membership outreach. Having obtained some sponsorships, it has allowed the organization to move forward. Their work also continues with different senators from each Tribe’s respective state.

The alliance continues its advocacy work regarding small business development and to advocate for health, education, public safety, housing, work force development and employment.

“Apache Alliance reflects the ancestry of who we are as Apaches,” said Lee-Gatewood. “We are the beneficiaries of their knowledge, the beneficiaries of their learning — the beneficiaries of everything they stood for, and the prayers for those children not yet born so they could accomplish their goals and dreams and to make something of themselves. We are those children today and it is up to us to continue that dream. We cannot slack in our pace. We have to continue to roll up our sleeves and keep working.”

At the end of the summit, before the closing prayer, Lee-Gatewood stated that it is a tradition and a ceremonial event to pass the Apache war rifle from the former summit Tribal host to the current host. She had the honor of passing the rifle in 2019 to Fort Sill Apache Tribal Chairwoman Lori Gooday Ware who passed the rifle on Nov. 11 to SCAT Chairman Terry Rambler.

Lee Gatewood’s Chief of Staff Jerry Gloshay, who also attended the summit, said that upon receiving the rifle, Rambler held it up and said, “Apache Alliance forever.”

Reach the reporter at bbruce@wmicentral.com

Barbara Bruce is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering arts and entertainment on the Mountain and the Pinetop-Lakeside town government.

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