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House passes bill to expand Pascua Yaqui tribal lands near Grant & I-10

The Pascua Yaqui Tribe is closer to gaining control of Old Pascua, site of tribe’s first settlement in Tucson, after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill awarding to the tribe the Northwest Side area of several city blocks, which includes the site of a planned casino.

Pascua Yaqui Chairman Peter Yucupicio lauded supporters in Congress, the White House and the city of Tucson in a statement and thanked Mayor Regina Romero and U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, who introduced the bill in July.

“We applaud Congress for their steadfast support of the tribe’s efforts to create jobs, build homes, and continue to improve the welfare of our people and the people of Tucson during a pandemic,” he said. “The bill is a recognition of our elders, an investment for our future generations, and we will be blessed if it becomes law.”

The Old Pascua Community Land Acquisition Act, H.R. 4881, will convert an area just southeast of Interstate 10 and Grant Road into trust land, with the federal government taking ownership on behalf of the Native American tribe.

Yucupicio said the tribe’s intent “is to be good stewards of this land, protecting the culturally important areas, while establishing a first-class gaming enterprise that benefits the entire community.”

The state of Arizona and city of Tucson granted permission to the Yaqui to establish an additional casino on part of the site earlier this year.

The affected parcels, north of West Calle Adelanto and west of North 15th Avenue, are part of the Old Pascua Community, a historic area for the tribe where many members live near a culturally significant church, museum and ceremonial grounds. The tribe currently governs part of the neighborhood south of Grant Road near Fairview Avenue. The bill, if also passed by the Senate, would expand the reservation in that area.

Yucupicio said Old Pascua is an “Arizona treasure” and that the bill will help them “maintain our ties to our community and help us strengthen and protect our culture, religion, and the San Ignacio cultural area, consistent with our right to self-determination.”

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The director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Darryl LaCounte, testified on behalf of the Department of Interior in favor of the measure, saying it “provides greater opportunity for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe to make investments in the tribal economy, promotes community and regional economic development within the greater Tucson region.”

Bennito L. Kelty is TucsonSentinel.com’s IDEA reporter, focusing on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access stories, and a Report for America corps member.

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Bennito L Kelty/TucsonSentinel.com

Chairman of the Pascua Yaqui Tribal Council Peter Yucupicio (left in this August file photo) lauded the House passing a Old Pascua land acquisition bill on Tuesday.

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