Native Tribe on the Edge of Megacity

Apr 22, 2023 469.3K Views 864 Comments

Adjacent to the 5 million-person Phoenix metro area is the Gila River Community (Reservation). Here the local Natives live in entirely separate realities governed by different laws. The Casinos fund much of what happens on the rez. Join local Samuel and me to get an inside look at these two separate worlds living side by side.

♪ somber country ♪
♪ somber country ♪
Good morning, guys.
Greater Phoenix metro area,
five million people.
But right next door
we have the Gila River community.
583 square miles
with only 14,000 Natives living there.
Two completely different worlds
basically living on top of one another.
So let’s go right to
the side of Phoenix here…
[train passes]
And see what this place is all about.
♪ somber country ♪
PETER: All right, Samuel, we’re here.
SAMUEL: Yeah.
-So, “Gila River Community”
and I saw “Gila River Reservation”.
I saw both online but I think
you guys like being called community.
Is that right?
-Yeah.
-And why is it community
and not reservation?
-Because we have…
Well, it’s a reservation.
You know, on the signs when it says,
“Entering Gila River.”
but out here we have two tribes.
It’s like how there’s the Maricopas,
you know, in District 67, Laveen area.
-Okay.
-And then the Pimas here,
versus, you know,
Tohono O’odham Nation is just one tribe.
-Or like Navajo Nation?
-Yeah, that’s what it’s called, a nation.
-Okay.
Are you Maricopa or Pima?
-I’m [chuckles]… I’m mixed.
-Okay.
-Gila River, Pima, Laguna,
Tohono O’odham Nation as well, TO.
-TO, Tohono O’odham?
-Tohono O’odham, yeah.
-And that’s…
I was trying to get into that reservation,
it’s on the border.
It’s beautiful,
I actually drove through it.
It’s on the Mexican border, it’s in
mountains and saguaro cacti everywhere.
We’re very lucky because Samuel
reached out and said he’d show us around.
Uh, teach us about the community here.
It’s really unbelievable
when you’re in Phoenix.
Five million people
in Greater Phoenix Metro.
And then you just cross a line
and you’re in the middle of…
Well here is like suburbia
but it’s just desert.
And totally different world out here.
-Yeah.
PETER: You were the liquor cop?
SAMUEL: Yeah, we’re liquor cops.
And pretty much everybody
that sells beer legally…
You know, they come through our department
and get a liquor license.
-Out on…
-In Phoenix and stuff, all over.
-Not out… Do you say, “On the rez.” here
even through we’re calling it a community?
Do I say, “On the rez?”
-Yeah.
-You say rez? That’s what the locals say?
-Yeah, rez.
-Okay.
PETER: Did a lot of you guys
fight in World War II?
Is that what this is for?
-Yeah.
My grandfather served.
Both my grandfather… parents
served in military.
One was Air Force, one was in Korea.
Uncle, he was in the Marines, Desert Storm.
-So for those that don’t know,
you’re pretty much autonomous out here,
but the BIA is actually a federal thing.
-It’s over here, yeah.
-Okay.
-This is our district,
this is a new building right here.
-Oh, that’s beautiful.
-Yeah.
-Is that BIA funding or how does that work?
-It’s from our tribe, from the casinos.
-We’re gonna get out there today, right?
To the casino?
-Yeah.
-Okay.
SAMUEL: If the rangers are out,
Tribal police,
and they see plates, whatever,
we’ll get pulled over.
-Because they’re Nevada plates?
-Yeah.
-It’s a rental truck.
-There’s no trespassing out here.
The reservation.
-Oh, out here, outsiders can’t go?
-No.
You got to have official business
on the reservation unless you’re invited.
-Because I’m with you it’s not a problem?
-No, no, you’re good.
-But if I came out here alone
the cops would get me?
-You would get cited,
yeah, for trespassing.
-For trespassing?
-Yeah.
But the Rangers are pretty cool.
They’ll give you a warning.
-Okay.
You know, this road, like a side street…
The highway here on the other side
of the mountain which we’ll see.
-Are your roads so good because of
the casino or who’s funding all this?
-Yeah, our tribe…
-That’s casino money?
-Yeah.
♪ somber country ♪
SAMUEL: Gun range right here.
So our tribal cops come out here too
and practice.
PETER: Do you have specific gun laws
on the reservation?
-We have BIA, you have to go
and register your firearm
but out here you don’t.
-Okay.
-When I turned 18 I tried to go…
I still thought that
we had to go and, you know,
take your firearm in and stuff and…
So when I went
and I had my shotgun with me.
One cop told me, he’s like,
“You know you’re the first person
I’ve seen here since I’ve been working…”
“…that wants to register a firearm here.”
But yeah, here, you don’t.
This is a gun range right here.
This is where someone passed…
or got killed.
-Here? They got killed here?
-Yeah.
-What happened? Accident?
-You know,
people go missing one night and…
This place right here
was actually on the news some years ago.
I guess a lady buried her baby out here
or something like that.
-How is the missing person situation
out here in Gila River?
-It’s like the same as pretty much every,
you know, other reservation.
We have people missing,
people get killed, murdered out here
or they’ll have their bodies
dumped out here.
People from the city, they’ll bring
the bodies out here and leave ’em
because it’s a desert area.
-So Samuel, we just started the video.
Is this where you
take me out in the desert?
[both laughing]
It’s where I come to cry. [laughs]
I haven’t seen anybody
have a picnic out here in forever
but we used to have,
when I was growing up,
we used to have picnics out here.
Hike the mountain.
I can’t do that now, I’m too… [laughs]
-You used to come out here?
-I haven’t hiked it since I was a teenager.
PETER: Because you were in law enforcement,
do you know much about
the missing person situation?
Like, why is it happening
so much on reservations?
-I mean it depends on…
How should I say this?
People go out… Say, people go out
to a party and, you know, they…
Drunk, whatever, people take advantage.
They don’t want to get caught for taking
advantage or whatever, to the individual
and they’ll, you know,
commit murder or whatever.
-Right.
-You know, um…
We call ’em rez parties.
-Rez parties?
-Yeah.
-What’s a rez party like?
-It’s like, you know,
if you were to have a party at your house.
You know, drinks, music,
things like that, you know?
Just pretty much that on the reservation.
SAMUEL: So in December
we have a water right celebration.
We don’t have to pay our water bill.
PETER: So your water rights
were taken when?
-I can’t remember the year.
-Long time ago?
-It was a long time ago.
-And then you won a court case
and got them back?
-Yeah.
PETER: Was that huge thing for your people?
SAMUEL: Oh, yeah.
Yeah, ’cause we’re a farming community
and we farm all the way through
the Phoenix Valley.
This actually used to be
a farm right here too.
These used to be fields.
-Okay.
PETER: Water is obviously
a big deal in Arizona.
Is there a big battle
going on with you guys
or you’re pretty set right now?
Like, you guys, you’re good?
-Yeah, I mean it’s always…
It’s always some kind of issue
that’s gonna come up along the way.
-Yeah.
-So we have people…
We have our water rights.
So when we’ve got these cities nearby
who are gonna come, or if not already…
Chandler used to be a bunch of fields,
growing up, we used to see
a bunch of fields out there.
Now there’s apartment buildings
that are going up now.
I remember years ago my dad said that
pretty soon
that Chandler’s gonna be
right at the border.
Now it is.
It’s just, like, right there.
-Chandler is right up there?
-Yeah.
-So if you’re growing up here,
is it more normal to get off the rez
or more normal to stay?
-Um, I believe, like, now people,
you know, like, I have some friends who
grew up here, went to school,
now they live in town.
-In Phoenix?
-Well, Casa Grande or Phoenix.
My little brother, when he was alive,
he lived in Mesa
and I mean ’cause everything’s
so close together.
You know, I mean,
you don’t have to go 20 miles or whatever.
15 miles to go to a McDonalds
or something like that, you know?
Versus you can just go outside,
and walk down the block, and you’re there.
-Sure.
-Things out here close at a certain time.
I think 9:00… 8:00 or 9:00,
the mart closes and the gas station.
Those are the only two stores we have.
Well then we have
the smoke shop as well… Post office.
-So it’s like it’s total small time-life…
Living next to five million people?
-Yeah… Right.
See, you can breathe out here
versus in town,
you can’t really do that
with all that smog and things like that.
And at night time
you can see the stars at night
versus, you know, being in town and,
you know, that means it’s home.
I grew up here, it’s home. Always will be.
I don’t think I could live in the city.
-And you look North at night
and it’s just a big red glow, right?
-Yeah, and it’s getting brighter.
Like, Casa Grande, you know, down South,
you know, you really couldn’t see
that orange haze at night.
Now you can see it.
-Right.
-Same thing with Coolidge.
Coolidge is getting bigger.
I remember when Coolidge Walmart opened,
we call that “The gathering of Nations”
right there [laughs].
SAMUEL: I remember a long time ago
there used to be watermelon fields.
Everybody on the reservation
can come and get watermelons
Take home as much as you want.
PETER: So are they gonna water this
or it’s just done?
-It’s gonna be planting season.
-So that soil looks
pretty hard to grow in, doesn’t it?
It’s like sand.
-It’s actually pretty good.
When it’s wet, if we were
to go drive in there, it sinks in.
-There we go, look at that.
I don’t see any sprinkler systems.
How’s it getting water?
-Through here, the canal.
-It’s just dripping in?
-They’ll open up these right here…
-Yep.
-And it goes underground.
Right here at this box,
all the way straight down.
-Okay, yeah.
-These are olive trees.
This is our citrus over here.
-You have citrus?
-Yeah.
-So you’re selling this stuff
all off-rez then?
-Yeah.
-Who owns it? Is there like a big company?
-It’s the tribe.
-It’s the tribe?
-Gila River, yeah. Gila River Farms.
-So it employs a lot of people
here on the tribe?
-Um, not a lot.
The pay is not so great out here either.
-What is it?
-I think it’s like 12…
$12.80. Something like that.
-To pick olives?
-No, just to work out here.
PETER: This isn’t the landscape I think of
when I’m thinking outside of Phoenix.
Tribal police gonna get me?
Is this the end?
[both chuckling]
SAMUEL: You’re good, you’re good.
-Good, very juicy.
-Yeah.
[Samuel whistles]
-Gila River oranges.
PETER: So these guys come out
and harvest everything, huh?
-Yeah.
[tractor starts]
PETER: So they’re all from Mexico then?
SAMUEL: Yeah, yeah.
-So, no kids on the rez are getting
that summer job out here picking?
-Oh yeah, they do.
-They do?
-They have a youth thing
that comes out here.
-Okay.
-They’ll do this, they’ll do irrigation.
SAMUEL: See the greasewood?
PETER: Greasewood?
-Yeah, you get that, boil it,
it’s like medicine.
Yeah, you have a cold…
-You just boil this?
-Mm-hmm.
Boil it, drink it like a tea.
-It’s got a very strong smell.
PETER: “Japanese Internment Camp.”
So for those that don’t know,
World War II happens,
the US government rounded up
a lot of Japanese Americans, right?
And put them in internment camps.
-Right.
-Because they deemed them
as a threat to national security.
-Right.
-That was the argument, right?
-Yeah.
-So here we have all the camps, huh?
-Yeah.
There we see some of the foundations.
There they are, huh?
-Yeah.
-Imagine that.
Being Japanese American,
rounded up from the West Coast,
brought to one of the hottest places
on the planet…
Like, this time of year’s fine but…
-Yeah, it’s nice out here.
-Imagine being out there
without AC in August.
-Man.
-110, 115.
-Imagine, like, inside the facility. [phew]
-Brutal.
SAMUEL: If you came out here by yourself,
you would pay a permit to come out here.
I believe it was like a hundred bucks
I believe.
-White man’s gotta pay
a hundred bucks a permit to come out here?
-Yeah.
-Everyone has to pay
for a permit to come out here?
-Non-Native, yeah.
-Non-Native, but if I’m with
a Native like you, it’s cool?
-Yeah, you’re invited.
-Free oranges and no permits.
-No permit.
-You gotta be with Samuel though.
-[Samuel laughs]
-So your reservation goes
all the way to the mountain there?
-Yeah.
And then all the way South here?
-Right.
-Developers would just…
They wish in their dreams, right?
-Yeah.
-They could have this land and water?
I always thought
Native reservations were locked.
Like that land is set.
It’s good to go, right?
-Uh-huh.
-But I’ve learned depending on the rez,
not always the case.
Some of it’s getting carved up.
Some of it is homesteaded.
Can be sold to anybody.
What about you guys here?
What’s the situation?
-I know, like, in my family we have land.
I remember growing up my dad telling me,
“Don’t ever sell it.”
-An outsider, any ethnicity, could buy land
from someone that wants to sell to them?
-That one… That’s more of a…
-That’s sticky? Okay.
-Yeah.
Yeah, I don’t think you can sell it to…
-You can’t sell it to whitey?
-Whitey… [chuckles]
-What do you call me, Bahana?
-Call you Amerigan.
-What’s that mean, white man?
-Yeah.
You know how white devil,
they call them beliganas?
-You call me a devil, that’s harsh, Samuel.
-[Samuel laughing]
Navajo did, I didn’t.
-Were you guys fighters?
-Yeah.
-We’re not, like, warlike…
-You weren’t like Apaches, were you?
-No, Apaches would come…
See, like, okay…
You had the Apache country out there
and they would come…
-That’s Apache country out there?
-On the other side of the mountains,
way over there.
-Okay.
-After we would harvest all through here
and, like, they would come from over there,
and, like, raid the camps,
or whatever food.
Even take women back
and then so along here…
‘Cause this is a good spot.
Okay, the river goes along here,
the river bed
and so there’s different villages here
throughout the reservation,
and back then, they were runners,
and they’d run to deliver messages
about the Apaches be coming and…
Or just what had happened
and then would go after them.
We were farmers and, you know, and…
But we could fight. [chuckles]
We could fight and stuff.
PETER: So you only have 14,000 people
out in all of this land?
-I believe it’s more than that.
I believe there’s more from when…
-Okay.
-I’m not too sure when
Google updated that, but yeah.
-Right, I saw that on Wikipedia.
-Yeah.
-How much is a house here on the rez?
-Here on the reservation?
I wouldn’t know to be honest.
-Do you rent your house?
-Yeah.
-Do you have to pay the BIA
or how do you do it?
-It’s the Department of Community Housing.
-Okay.
-And it’s all based on your income.
You know, so you gotta send in,
like, you know, your pay stub
and then, you know, then they’ll calculate
of how much they want from…
-So if you don’t have a job out here
you’re set with a home?
Like, they’ll pay for it?
-Yeah, you have to have…
We have per capita too as well.
And so you have to have some kind of income
but I know, like, you have,
like, negative rent.
Um…
You know, like, if you don’t have a job,
or, you know, things like that.
But yeah, so that’s where they…
I believe that’s why
they’re federally funded.
PETER: Just another day, guys.
Going from the former
Japanese internment camp,
down a dirt road…
…to a casino on the rez.
-To a casino on the rez.
-Just a normal day for you?
-Think we’ll get lucky?
-We gonna play?
-No… We could play.
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PETER: So, new house like this.
Are you seeing many of these on the res?
-Oh yeah, they’re going up.
It takes a while.
People that… Like, these houses
right here too, these new houses…
Some people waited over…
Some of them even 20 years
to get a new house built.
-So the BIA gives them the green light
to do it or what?
-Uh, yeah, if you have your own land.
-If you have your own land?
-Yeah.
-So some people have their own land
and some people
are leasing the land basically?
-Like, they’ll…
Yeah, get from the tribe.
Ask them for a lot
and then they’ll survey it.
And it takes a while
to get on the housing list.
To get a house.
Even, like, the house where I live at.
-Right.
PETER: As a reservation, you guys are
doing pretty well
comparatively would you say?
From what you’ve seen or…
-Yeah.
’cause, you know,
the tribe takes care of us.
-So what do citizens get here?
You said they take care of you.
What do you guys get from
the tribal council or the government?
-Like our per capita, we got one yesterday.
I mean it’s not a lot but it’s something.
You know, people who don’t have jobs,
they rely on that.
-You get a stipend from the rez?
-Yeah, from the casinos.
-I think it’s like 10% or 11%
of what the revenue… casino revenue.
-Okay.
Do you mind me asking what is that a month?
or what is that…
-It’s quarterly.
-I think we got like three-something,
$342 or $344.
-$342 every quarter? Quarterly?
-And then, like, so the summertime,
it gets more of an amount
versus, like, in Halloween,
and then like now.
You know, ’cause it’s
close to the holidays.
So people come and spend
more money during the summer months.
-In Salt River,
they get, like, thousands quarterly.
-Salt River?
-Yeah.
-That’s on the other side of Phoenix?
-Yeah.
-That’s a smaller tribe?
-Yeah.
That’s our sister tribe.
-Sister tribe?
-Yeah.
-Okay, they get thousands every quarter.
-Yeah, quarterly.
PETER: So this is all new rez housing?
SAMUEL: Yeah.
-And how does somebody get
the newer home
versus someone that has the older home?
-Oh, these people
probably applied years ago.
-And they’re paying for it
depending on their income?
-Income, yeah.
-But they’re renting, they don’t own it?
-Yeah.
And there are some houses
on the reservation like my grandmother’s,
those are rent to own.
The housing that I live at, it’s…
I lived there for… Since I was
two years old and it’s not rent to own.
SAMUEL: Then you have people
who marry into the tribe as well.
So, like, people who are non-Native can…
They don’t even have to be married
but they’ll come out here
and live out here.
-So if I had a Maricopa…
I’m married, but let’s just play pretend.
If I had a Maricopa girlfriend…
-Pima girl.
-Okay, Pima, sorry.
I got a Pima girl,
I could live with her out here?
-Yeah, if she wants you to. [chuckles]
-She might not.
-Just don’t make her mad.
-Are Pima girls hardcore?
-Yeah.
-Who runs the show typically
in a Pima relationship?
-Hmm…. [tsk]
Probably the girl.
-Okay.
PETER: So this is rez on this side,
this is off-rez right here?
-Yeah, see it’s right at the border
of the reservation, people move in.
-How do you feel about this?
-I don’t like it.
You know, and, like, when I would be
in Phoenix all day, I work in Phoenix.
I could at least come back home.
-So right when you step over this line
you feel like…
-You’re home, yeah.
-Oh, that’s so interesting.
-A safe zone.
[both laughing]
PETER: So do your worlds mix much
from the rez here to the non-rez?
-Yeah.
-You guys, like, blend?
-I know a girl in Ope, we had a…
Like, gangs in movies.
You see some people try to
mock that out here on the reservation.
-Gangs?
-Yeah, like in movies.
-Bloods and Crips?
-Yeah.
They have some supposedly,
you know, but I don’t know.
I know, like, we used to have…
We have a gang task force
actually out here in the PD.
SAMUEL: Anybody every rude to you
on the reservation?
PETER: Rude to me?
SAMUEL: Yeah.
-Not really.
-No?
-Everyone’s been pretty cool.
Usually I’m going in with people that we
connect beforehand online or something.
Like you.
-Yeah.
-I thought I was gonna have
way more negative experiences
being on the rezzes honestly.
‘Cause I look like a cop.
[Samuel chuckles]
I’m like a cop with a camera.
PETER: What is this over here?
SAMUEL: Just a new casino.
-So when you see a new casino being
built on the rez, what are your feelings?
-More job opportunities
off and on the reservation.
-Can people from off the rez
work at the casino?
-Oh yeah, my boss was non-Native.
-Okay.
SAMUEL: I know some people
that like the casino, some people don’t.
PETER: Yeah, I think it’s hard from
the outside to understand to be honest.
-Yeah.
-For non-Natives I think casinos
are sometimes confusing at least for me…
-Mm-hmm.
-Because I would think of a casino
as the absolute opposite
of what your traditional culture is.
-Yeah, exactly.
-But how do you feel on that?
-How do I feel on it?
Well, I mean there’s been casinos
since I was born
or all my life and all that stuff
and my mom used to work at a casino
I guess as a kid I didn’t know what…
You know, what it all takes care of
and whatever then versus now.
-But it’s jobs.
-Yeah.
I mean, these ladies are working
because of this here
and it brings money to you guys.
-Right, right.
PETER: So the reservation
is renting the sign space
’cause it’s all your guy’s land?
-Yeah.
-You notice every sign says they’re
hiring shifts, hospitals, electricians.
-Yeah.
I think after COVID
nobody wanted to go back to work.
I mean there are people
who go back to work but not a whole lot.
Kind of like there was
jobs out there and…
People are getting free money or something.
-How was your reservation during COVID?
-Everything was shut down.
We had a curfew. They had roadblocks.
Ask where you’re going,
what shop, whatever.
-So could you leave the res?
-Yeah, you could leave the res.
-And come back?
-Yeah.
-They had it for a while
but it didn’t stick too much.
♪ somber country ♪
PETER: So this woman, you think,
lives on the res and works out here?
SAMUEL: Probably.
-You don’t have to leave the res
to get a good paying job now?
Not a bad setup, and then all the people
from Phoenix lose their money.
Then you guys make it, right?
-[Samuel chuckles] Yep.
First they were getting us drunk and taking
our stuff, now we’re doing it to them.
[Peter laughing]
-That’s so true.
-Yeah.
-They were getting you drunk
and taking your stuff and now it’s revenge?
-Yep.
PETER: So you worked here
for how long?
SAMUEL: Uh, at this site, for about
a month or so, other one was over a year.
[ice and soda dispensing]
PETER: What are some of
the interesting things you saw here?
-Old ladies fighting,
getting mad at each other.
Somebody would be sitting at this chair,
one would be playing,
and they’ll be watching
for this person to go use the restroom,
then they’ll come and take the seat.
And the lady would come back and say,
“Hey, that’s my seat.
whatever, and they’ll bump heads.
-What’s going on here?
-I have no idea.
-So do Natives gamble much?
– Yeah.
-You guys do?
-Yeah.
PETER: Does this have anything to do
with the Gila River People, the horse?
SAMUEL: Yeah, wild horses.
The area right here
was where the wild horses are at.
-So basically right outside here
you have a bunch of wild horses?
-Up there, yeah.
SAMUEL: Oh, it’s cool out here.
PETER: Oh wow, beautiful.
-See that dust over there?
That could be where the horses are at too.
-Wild horses?
-Yeah, that or over here.
See where the dust is at?
-Okay.
Way out there?
-Yeah.
So is it fair to say people on the rez
are happy about this being here
or it depends who you talk to?
-I think it depends on who you talk to.
Some people, like the old ones
don’t like the casino
’cause how it changes…
How it changes their living I guess.
How it brings alcohol and whatever.
-Yeah.
-Like, Christians, whatever,
they don’t gamble.
There was a lady I went to…
It was at a pawn shop.
-Uh-huh.
-And she asked where I worked at
and I told her here at the casino.
She said, “Oh, the casino,
I don’t gamble. I’m a Christian lady.”
or something like that.
I was like, “Oh, okay.”
I guess that’s bad,
that’s why, or it’s a sin.
-How many casinos
do you guys have on the rez?
-This… We’re gonna have four.
Tribe owns its own casino.
-Okay, they fully own it?
-Fully own it, yeah.
-Well that’s cool because
I’ve heard of some casinos where there’s,
like, a joint ownership.
-Yeah.
-A bunch of capital comes in from outside
and they take a lot of the profit too.
-Yeah.
-But this…
-This one all goes to the tribe.
-Uh, yeah, I go every now and then
’cause I have family over there.
-There’s not a lot of stuff to do there
so a lot of people have to
venture out to do stuff.
-Right.
-If you go in there, you’re just like,
“Oh, there’s nothing here.”
There’s like one grocery store,
one gas station, stuff like that,
and it looks small
but it’s actually pretty big.
But it’s a lot of just, like,
little sections hidden away.
Gila River is considered modern
compared to, like, TO.
TO is old school.
They are still
really traditional out there.
-Yeah, they have, like,
little tribal sections.
-Uh, yeah, they do.
I’m considered, like, an outsider.
Like, ’cause they’re very…
Yeah, they’re very, like…
They can know off the bat if you’re not.
It’s funny, there’s, like,
a word for, like…
I know there’s a word for it
but I forget the word itself.
But then people on the outside
call themselves coconuts.
-Okay.
-Just ’cause it’s, like, just funny to say.
They’re protective I guess of,
like, that stuff.
So they don’t consider me that part.
Especially even, like, rez versus rez.
Like sometimes
they don’t even like each other.
-Yeah.
Like, not TOs, we’re considered,
like, sister tribes.
So we’re very similar.
But Navajos and a lot of the northern ones
compared to us other ones,
they’re like… Yeah, there’s a lot of…
little bit of rivalry between us.
Like, ’cause again,
we employ a lot of Navajo people here.
If you look around,
the majority of them are Navajo.
You would think it’s Gila River
but it’s not.
Yeah, it’s just teasing
and stuff like that.
It’s just making fun of each other.
-What’s that?
Uh, a couple here and there.
I have an employee who is one.
She was like… She lived like…
Yeah, they are.
People just think that we’re all, like,
super best friends with each other
but it’s like, again, I guess family
likes to bicker.
PETER: Those are the fair grounds?
SAMUEL: Yeah.
That’s a cultural site right there.
They have their traditional dances.
We haven’t for I think two years.
So it’s coming back.
Smell that fried bread already.
[chuckles]
-So you were saying,
was it your grandmother?
In the summers here
when it’s 115 degrees…
-My dad’s grandmother.
-Your dad’s grandmother.
She would do what?
-Yeah, water… Sprinkle water
on the dirt floor, it keeps it cool.
-They were living in a hut, right?
-Yeah.
-Like a mud hut?
-Like a mud house, yeah.
-So that’s how they keep cool
in the summer?
-Yeah.
-Just wet the floor and sleep on it?
-Wet the floor, yeah.
You can sleep on it if you want.
Um, she would rearrange her living room.
Well, pretty much like a big room anyways
and so that way
it would keep the ground hard.
You know, so set whatever,
the sometime later on,
and then rearrange it, like,
maybe like, I don’t know how often.
It was a while though.
She would move it around
so it would keep that ground hard.
Sprinkle water to keep it cool.
PETER: That’s BIA or what is that?
SAMUEL: That’s the tribal police.
-Tribal police?
-Police department, yeah.
-It’s pretty big.
-There’s the courthouse over here.
-You have a lot of cops here?
-Oh, yeah.
-Juvenile detention center?
-Yeah, juvenile.
Here’s where we park
the Boys and Girls Club vans out here.
-Who’s there?
-The Boys and Girls Club vans.
Park them over here.
We had a different van, it was a Dodge van
used to park outside
the Boys and Girls Club.
It was within that fence but some idiot
will always shoot at the windows.
Break the windows.
Over here is the battered women’s shelter,
and then there’s also a youth home.
-Youth home, so kids without parents?
-Yeah.
Kids that are taken away.
Before, like, the kids or whatever
would be taken off the reservation
and then they built this
to keep them on the reservation
-Okay.
You guys really have
a lot of infrastructure out here.
-Casinos.
You should get that symbol right there,
that’s our tribal symbol.
-Okay.
-You guys seem to be pretty well funded.
-Yeah.
[door opens]
-Yeah guys, every reservation’s different.
How they’re run
and how much money
they have to work with
And also…
How much of that money
is going down to the people
because some of these reservations
are run like mafias, let’s call ’em.
-Mafia?
-Some of ’em, right?
And then others,
they’re much more giving to the people?
-Much more giving.
PETER: That’s the back side of the pen?
SAMUEL: Yeah, this is the jail.
I mean that’s a massive jail for,
let’s just say
it’s 30,000 out here, Samuel, right?
-Approximately.
-That’s a pretty big jail.
What is this?
-This is part of the hospital,
administration building for the hospital.
This is new too.
This is where our governor is at
and our council chambers.
-Is he popular?
-[Samuel hesitatingly] Hmm…
Yeah, he’s good.
-You have some good architecture out here.
I like this.
-Say you want a per capita,
go in there and apply.
Pay your bills here too as well.
So I wanna get a dog.
So if I want to adopt a dog, you know,
I go over here first,
pay my license fee for the dog for a year
and then take that documentation over to
the pound and, you know, adopt your dog.
-So it really does feel like
you’re in your own country out here?
Like separate government completely?
-Oh yeah, definitely.
-All of these services.
-All these services.
-What’s this?
-Behavioral health.
-Behavioral health?
-Yeah,it’s like people who are really,
like, not right in the head or something.
They have services.
-Okay, this is just servicing
your reservation here?
-We have people from the rez and non.
They pretty much service
people from wherever.
Well this one here is mostly…
mainly for the tribe.
We have people from
other reservations that come here.
-I’m having a hard time
understanding all of this to be honest.
I mean in a good way.
-Okay.
-The amount of… Let’s just look at
these vans over here, right?
-Oh, these are, um…
-Like, look at this, guys.
All this medical transportation.
Ton of vans.
All this infrastructure for… Let’s…
Okay…
Wikipedia says 14,000 people.
We’re gonna say just double that
because we don’t know, right?
-Yeah.
-So say roughly 30,000.
So for 30,000 people, the amount
of infrastructure and services I’ve seen…
I’ve never seen anything like that
to be honest.
-Yeah.
-Like a big town, small city.
No way.
-Big town, small city.
-Do you guys realize that
or are you just used to it.
-Used to it I guess.
Like, fortunate to have.
I remember,
this hospital is the same age as me.
My dad helped, uh, build it.
And over here we have, like…
That’s a wellness center.
For, you know, for patients.
I’ve heard that Gila River
was a capital for diabetes.
-In the country?
-Yeah.
-Capital for diabetes?
-Yeah.
-What percentage of the people
have diabetes?
-Um… I don’t have it… Yet.
Um, but my older brother, he has diabetes
and he’s a skinny dude.
SAMUEL: And this right here
is Tribal medical transportation.
So if I’m at home
and I need a ride to the hospital,
these guys pick you up
and take you to your appointment
on or off the reservation.
-Just for a check up? Any appointment?
-Any appointment, anything.
-So all those vans
that I just showed over there?
-That’s what those are for?
-That’s what that’s for, yeah.
They have like stretch… Like,
if people are bed ridden, or whatever.
They have a stretcher van for them.
-To go to appointments.
-Yeah.
-And they have a community nursing…
Community nurse or whatever
that goes out to your home
and let’s say you have a wound
that needs to be changed or dressed,
you know, they’ll come
and change it for you.
-And that’s all free?
-Mm-hmm.
That’s part of the hospital,
that’s dialysis right here.
And there’s two of these.
One in Laveen and one here.
-That big of a place for dialysis?
-Yeah.
-Dental?
-Yeah.
-Do they cover that too?
-Yeah.
-They cover full dental?
-Yeah.
-If you need a crown
or something like that?
-Yeah, but the thing about that is
that, um, it’s a long waiting list.
Same thing with eye clinic too.
Like, you can make an appointment,
you get glasses once a year.
Elders parking too.
[Peter sighs in disbelief]
SAMUEL: You don’t see that at Walmart.
PETER: No.
[birds chirping and children playing]
All right, guys.
Another unique corner of America.
Gotta say, Samuel…
That is a wild mix.
-Yeah.
-Former Japanese internment camp,
casino…
-Casinos.
-Reservation…
Five million people
living over the mountain there.
-Right?
-And then Samuel in the mix.
-Yep.
-Thanks for bringing us in, man.
Appreciate it.
-Sure, brother.
-And you guys have
some of the best oranges I’ve had.
-Yeah, yeah.
-All right.
Thanks for coming on that journey.
Until the next one.
♪ somber country ♪

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