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Robert A. Williams, Jr.Robert A. Williams, Jr. is a professor of law and American Indian studies, and the director and founder of the Tribal Law Program, which includes the Tribal Law Clinic. He's also a member of the Lumbee Indian Tribe of North Carolina.
Tucson is Indian country, whether people know it or not: We have Pascua-Yaqui right on our border. We have San Xavier, we have Sells and Tohono O'odham. Occasionally news bubbles up from the surface when there's a toxic leak down at San Xavier, or the housing authority goes belly-up down at O'odham. But what you normally hear are the negative things, or that the U.S. attorney has raided the reservation's gaming machines. What bubbles to the surface is a distorted picture of what's really a vibrant and important part of the multicultural scene here.
Best Night Out
My favorite thing to do in Tucson Indian country is to go to the Desert Diamond Casino, and then to the Casino of the Sun, and play poker. It's a lot of fun and it supports tribal sovereignty. Lastly, it tells Fife Symington that his policy on Indian gaming is wrong-headed, and just as bankrupt as his own ethics are. So that's my favorite thing to do.
Best Cultural Catalyst
What's really unique about Tucson is the role that the University plays as a catalyst for some of the most important and innovative ideas in Indian policy, Indian literature, and contemporary Indian art. For example, our American Indian studies program has just added the country's first Ph.D. in America in Indian Studies. We have, without a doubt, the best group of indigenous scholars of any university in the world. We have Scott Momaday for example; and Tom Holm, a Cherokee political scientist; and we have David Wilkens, who's one of the leading authorities on modern Indian tribal government.
Best Legal Action For Indigenous Peoples
">The Tribal Law Policy Program is a joint program sponsored by the College of Law and American Indian Studies. We find internships and externships for all students and Indian studies graduate students, Indian and non-Indian. We've sent students to just about all the major Arizona reservations. We've sent law students down to the jungles of Nicaragua, and to work for indigenous humans rights groups at the United Nations in Geneva. The UA programs aren't focused on giving fancy, scholarly papers. They're focused on how to strengthen the tribal institution and achieve self-determination, through land-use and zoning, for example. I should mention (fellow law professor) Robert Hershey has been a really active, important supporter of the program.
Best Annual Festivals
The annual UA powwow on campus: It's usually on the mall, but it moves around (both location and time of year). There's a traveling powwow circuit of Indian people of all tribes who do this as a way to celebrate their cultures. They're very good at what they do--the best in the country. It's a good way to get a real sense of what the Indian powwow experience is all about. The Yaqui Easter ceremonies out at Old Pascua are another of my favorite Tucson experiences. As long as you're respectful and you want to watch, you're always welcome.
I like Yoeme Café, the Yaqui restaurant on North Stone Avenue. Anything is good, but particularly the homemade tacos and tortillas.
Best Place To Stop On The Way To Rocky Point
The Papago Café is just past Basha's on Ajo Road, in Sells.
A lot of people don't know about it--you kind of just drive by,
because you're finally through that 35 mph zone. They have great
Indian fry bread, tacos and beans--everything. That's the best
meal on a reservation, or on the way to Rocky Point.