It’s been a good couple of weeks for Arizona’s Native Americans, at least symbolically.

Last Thursday night, Gov. Doug Ducey signed SB 1235 into law, establishing June 2 as Native American Day, an official (if unpaid) Arizona holiday.

On March 27, legislation to name three Arizona highways after Native American veterans unanimously passed the senate. Since the actions were in the form of memorials rather than bills, their sponsor, State Sen. Jamescita Peshlakai (D-Dist. 7) can immediately petition the Arizona State Board on Geographic and Historic Names to designate the sections of highway.

Peshlakai was also the chief sponsor of the bill designating Native American Day.

“I learned the governor had signed it last night on his Twitter account,” she said in a telephone interview. “I’m so excited!”

In a statement on the Arizona Senate Democrats’ website, Peshlakai said, “Our indigenous people have called these lands home for millennia, from the Four Corners to the Colorado delta and everywhere in between. Our ancestors built towering cliff dwellings and the great canals that still irrigate the Valley of the Sun. We have fought overseas for our country and we drive innovation that will lead Arizona forward.”

Because the bill will take effect 90 days after the end of the current legislative session, Arizona won’t be celebrating Native American Day this year. The first celebration will be in 2019. Peshlakai said she envisions the day as an opportunity for Arizona’s 22 indigenous tribes to celebrate their heritage while also discussing issues on the reservations and educating the state’s non-Indians both about the tribes’ cultural beauty and the obstacles they face.

Ducey tweeted, “Arizona has a rich Native American history and I am proud to sign @jamescita’s bill recognizing and celebrating Native American Day on June 2.”

Sponsored by Peshlakai and 10 other senators, the three memorials naming the highways passed the senate unanimously.

SCM 1014 would name the portions of Arizona Highway 264 that run through the Navajo Nation the “Navajo Code Talkers Highway,” while the portions that run through the Hopi reservation would be called the “Hopi Code Talkers Highway.”

Peshlakai, an Army veteran, said in a press release the designation would honor the 11,000 living Native veterans who reside in Arizona, along with those who have passed.

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