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Indigenous Immigrants and Refugees in the North American Borderlands by Brenden W. Rensink, Texas A&M Press, 2018

Chapter 10, Note 40 (pages 207 and 274)

This had facilitated the building of extensive infrastructure at New Pascua, including roads, a central plaza, water and electrical lines, eighteen completed houses, two community center buildings, five temporary homes for transient use, six more houses nearly completed, and twenty-three in various lesser stages of construction. Many lauded the progress, but dissident voices continually clamored. (p. 207)

Chapter 10, Note 40 . . . for sources on these figures as well as extensive sources on the funding challenges, fund-raising campaigns and successes, opposition challenges, and related issues. (p. 274)

Spicer’s frustration over community opposition was furthered by a petition representing forty-five Pascua families released opposing the plan. Suspecting many suspected they had signed unaware of the petition’s purpose – the plan moved forward with support from Tucson officials.[1] Sustaining the project required constant fund-raising and proved a persistent impediment to progress.[2] In the face of stunted progress, many had mixed feelings and those who opted to remain at Old Pascua were encouraged to seek and support in revitalizing the neighborhood.

Assembly of God Reverend John Swank was particularly persistent in his efforts to help those at Old Pascua and oppose the New Pascua relocation project. He had opposed H.R. 6233 under the belief it was not in the Yaquis’ best interest and spearheaded the 1966 petition against relocation. During the relocation process, he attempted to establish a service center through which all Yaqui labor would be processed, but the proposal was rejected by the Tucson Public Employment Office. In early 1970, he wrote to then OEO Director Donald Rumsfeld, reiterating claims he had expressed to Morris K. Udall in 1964 that the relocation project was orchestrated by unhealthy interests. Anselmo Valencia, he explained, was a “self appointed dictator” who was not supported by his people. In the eyes of Swank, Valencia was “being used by influential persons . . . to promote their own ends by exploiting the Yaqui people.” The efforts of Edward Spicer and Muriel Thayer Painter, he felt, were more academic in nature than humanitarian. Their plans were, in essence, a project to boost Tucson tourism and establish a living “museum of Yaqui culture.” These motives, he felt, were not serving Yaquis’ desperate needs for true socio-economic development and integration in Tucson. He established the Yaqui Improvement Committee in Old Pascua to help secure funding for the development of the old village, but he was frustrated when it seemed that all federal and local funds were siphoned off by the New Pascua project.[3] Nascent plans by Tucson to include Old Pascua in its new “Model Cities” program failed to materialize. Swank’s example illustrates divisions among Yaquis themselves and those seeking to speak for them. Such divisions were persistent throughout the years of New Pascua development and well into the 1970s.

Another example of suspicion of Valencia can be found in a group of Yaqui young men and young women calling themselves Los Animados, wrote to Morris K. Udall in 1970, protesting Charles Hillinger’s New York Post article, “The Plight of Yaquis, Our Invisible Indians.” As a part of their protest, they explained, “The fact that Anselmo Valencia is considered ‘Chief’ is a relative term. He is and was a ‘self-appointed chief’ preying on the ignorance and illiteracy of his people. He certainly is not considered as such by all residents today.”[4] Udall responded, and addressed their dissatisfaction with Anselmo Valencia, New Pascua and the PYA. He wrote, “Now in regard to the location of the 200 acres which I obtained for the Yaquis in Tucson some years ago, the land in question just happened to be the best available government owned land near Tucson. Before sponsoring that legislation I insisted on having the written approval of the entire Yaqui community, and I received a petition to that effect. However, I can understand why many people find the move to that location inconvenient and prefer to remain in the heart of the town. That is strictly the choice of the individual Yaqui, and I have no will to urge people one way or another.” Udall’s cognizance of the Yaqui opposition was not limited to this exchange, as PYA leaders kept him well informed on the various divisions and turbulences they faced. While not sponsoring the denouncement of Valencia, his response reveals recognition of frustrations felt by some Yaquis as relevant. His intimate knowledge of and empathy towards Yaqui feelings, while far displaced from the day to day happenings in Arizona, is impressive and a testament to his sincere interest in his state’s Yaqui population. “I have nothing but the highest regard for the Yaquis I have met,” he concluded, “and am proud to be their Congressman. And that applies to each and every one of you.”[5]

Tucson Catholic Social Services also presented alternative strategies. In 1968 they secured a $36,000 grant from the Raskob Foundation to administer a three-year social services program in Old and New Pascua on the Yaquis’ behalf. Administered by them, and in its last year, by the Mexican American Yaqui Association (MAYO), their help was certainly welcomed by Yaquis, but their relationship with the PYA was strained.[6] Others, such as Tommy Valenzuela, who led El Comite Yaqui de La Fe – a south Tucson (Barrio Libre) Yaqui neighborhood committee – stated that they were “tired of waiting for the PYA” to aid them. Instead, they set off on their own to build a new church in Barrio Libre. Yaquis whose jobs prohibited them from participating in the New Pascua resettlement, such as those in Marana, Eloy or the Guadalupe-Scottsdale groups, added further division. Reports that New Pascua Yaquis destroyed the church at Old Pascua and the old village residents’ reconstruction and plans to enact their own Yaqui Easter ceremonies there in 1970 paint a picture of even deeper division. For some, it was simply a matter of who would deliver on their promises first. The Arizona Daily Star concluded a 4-part series on the Yaqui:

And the people of the old village sit and wait – for a new village home or for the newer promise of Tucson’s Model Cities program that is not yet off the ground. “Whichever comes first,” says a Yaqui woman with a shrug. “We’re used to waiting. And we’re used to broken promises.”[7]

Geography, economics, religion, and other factors divided support for the PYA and the New Pascua project. Others questioned the PYA’s administration, handling of OEO funds, fraud, and so forth.[8] An ad-hoc committee formed by former PYA director Robert McKenzie, who had been fired after one week in the position, and one Manuel Valencia sent regular correspondence with their complaints and accusations to OEO officials. The letters reveal a man somewhat obsessed with deposing PYA leadership (and Anselmo Valencia) and interest in being reinstated himself. The OEO investigated but announced continued faith in the PYA.[9]

[1] Margaret Kuehlthau, “Project Director Denies Pressure: Yaqui Move Called Voluntary,” Tucson Daily Citizen, September 23, 1966; Margaret Kuehlthau, “Relocation Fight: Protestant Yaquis Charge Discrimination,” Tucson Daily Citizen September 27, 1966; Margaret Kuehlthau, “Project Proceeds: New Petition Opposes Yaqui Resettlement,” Tucson Daily Citizen, November 2, 1966; Tom Turner, “Lawyers Says: Village Plan Liked by Most Yaqui Families,” Arizona Daily Star, September 28, 1966, B1; “Committee Reports: No Bias Found in Yaqui Move,” Tucson Daily Citizen, November 17, 1966; “No Bias Found at Yaqui Site,” Arizona Daily Star, November 16, 1966; “Sara Gay Beacham Report,” 1966, Spicer Papers, ASM, Subgroup 6, Box 4, Folder 15; Mary Jane Martinez, “A Yaqui View,” undated, Spicer Papers, ASM, Subgroup 8, Box 2, Folder 110; and Mary Jane Martinez, “Voice of the People: Yaqui Responds to Story (editorial),” Arizona Daily Star, February 18, 1967.

[2] Muriel Thayer Painter to Richard C. Olson, November 20, 1966, Udall Papers, UASC, Subgroup 3, Series 1, Box 541, Folder 11; “A Demonstration Community Organization Program to Promote Educational Sensitivity Among Yaqui Indians in the New Pascua Village,” PYA Project Proposal for Tucson Public Schools, 1967, Spicer Papers, ASM, Subgroup 6, Box 3, Folder 3; “Termed Big Problem: Pascua Home Ownership Hinges on Job Training,” Tucson Daily Citizen, January 10, 1967; Tom Turner, “Young Yaquis Look Ahead to Future of New ‘Camp’,” Arizona Daily Star, February 13, 1967; Morris K. Udall to William Willard, March 17, 1967, and Edward Spicer to Morris K. Udall, April 18, 1967, Spicer Papers, ASM, Subgroup 6, Box 1, Folder 2; “New Pascua Village,” Pima County Planning Commission brochure, May 1967, Spicer Papers, ASM, Subgroup 6, Box 2, Folder 5; and William Willard to Edward Spicer, 1969, Spicer Papers, ASM, Subgroup 6, Box 1, Folder 3.

[3] Rev. John Swank to Donald Rumsfeld, OEO Director, January 13, 1970, Spicer Papers, ASM, Subgroup 6, Box 1, Folder 7; and Tom Turner, “Some Felt Left Out, Charged Discrimination,” Arizona Daily Star, March 9, 1970.

[4] Los Animados to Morris K. Udall, February 25, 1970 and Morris K. Udall to Los Animados, April 3, 1970, Udall Papers, UASC, Subgroup 3, Series 1, Box 546, Folder 24; Charles Hillinger, “The Plight of Yaquis, Our Invisible Indians,” New York Post, February 2, 1970.

[5] Morris K. Udall to Los Animados, April 3, 1970, Udall Papers, UASC, Subgroup 3, Series 1, Box 546, Folder 24.

[6] Tom Turner, “Some Felt Left Out, Charged Discrimination,” Arizona Daily Star, March 9, 1970; and “Catholics Enlist Aid for Yaquis,” Arizona Daily Star, March 10, 1970.

[7] Tom Turner, “Yaquis Weary of Unfulfilled Vows by ‘Do-Gooders’,” Arizona Daily Star, March 11, 1970.

[8] See Robert McKenzie and Manuel Valencia to Donald Rumsfeld, January 15, 1970; Robert McKenzie to Donald Rumsfeld (OEO Director), January 27, 1970; Robert McKenzie to Senator Paul Fannin, February 3, 1970; Frank Carlucii (OEO Assistant Director for Operations to Robert McKenzie, March 4, 1970; Robert McKenzie to Frank Carlucii, March 12, 1970; Robert McKenzie to Dolores Baltazar (PYA Director), March 16, 1970; and Robert McKenzie to Senator Barry Goldwater, March 24, 1970, Personal and Political Papers of Senator Barry Goldwater, ASUA, FM MSS1, AHF, Series 3, Box 188, Folder 6; and Paul Fannin to Donald Rumsfeld, January 23, 1970, Paul Fannin Papers, ASUA, FM MSS 2, Series 3, Box 35, Folder 11.

[9] OEO Press Release, May 4, 1970, Personal and Political Papers of Senator Barry Goldwater, ASUA, FM MSS1, AHF, Series 3, Box 188, Folder 6.