By Alyssa MacyThe annual league of Arizona Cities and Towns Convention opened its general session on Friday, September 23rd at the Mesa Convention Center with nearly one thousand registrants representing most of the state’s 89 cities and towns and for the first time, ever, five of Arizona’s 22 Indian Nations. The League extended the invitation to the Tribes in hopes of clearing up questions about tribal sovereignty and future interests as well as foster dialogue between the tribes and the state. Attending the convention were Raphael Bear, president of the FT McDowell Yavapai Nation; Jamie Fullmer, chairman of the Yavapai-Apache Nation; Ned Norris, vice-chairman of the Tohono O’odham nation; Leonard Rivers, vice-president of the Salt River-Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and Delia Carlyle, vice-chairman of the Ak-Chin Indian Community. Bear addressed about 100 state leaders saying,”It wasn’t long ago that tribes and local governments had little to do with each other.” In the past, he acknowledged there had been “harsh words” and “bruised feelings in dealing between the tribes and local governments. “I’m here to tell you all that has changed.” The Tohono vice-chair stated when he found out how long the Convention has been gathering, “It’s taken us 20 years to get on your agenda” but explained the same issues that affect Arizona Towns and cities affect the tribes, especially population growth. He added, “I’m going to miss being able to step outside my house and seeing as far as I can but I do like that we have two grocery stores, now.” The Ak-Chin Community and the nearby city of Maricopa have had a “good neighbor policy” for decades in spite of occasional misunderstandings. They have worked together on issues and projects that benefit areas. Keno Hawker, Mesa mayor, told the group it has become commonplace for local and tribal governments to enter joint projects, adding the Salt River Community and Mesa are partners in several ventures including the VaShyl’ay Akimel Ecosystem Restoration Project along he Salt River bed. The warm feelings lasted long after the leaders stepped away from the microphone and Hawker said the League will be approached about making the joint meeting between tribes and state communities an annual affair.