THE MAN IN THE MAZEPIMA LEADER IVAN MAKIL SEEMS MOST ADEPT AT MAKING DEALS AND MAKING ENEMIES
Ivan Makil sets down his chopsticks, gives the Szechuan chicken a rest. A slim guy, he watches what he eats.
He's reminiscing about his high school days, when he played trumpet in South Phoenix for a blues band called the Soulsations.
"I was the only Indian guy in the band," says the president of the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community, "and after playing all night on Saturdays at the Riverside Ballroom, I'd go to Helsing's coffee shop for a cheap breakfast, go home, clean up and direct the church choir.
"All I ever really wanted to be was a musician."
Makil's laugh is distinctly Pima. It's playful. It starts softly and builds. You hear it over and over again on the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community, that 52,600-acre reservation of cotton fields and freeway bridges, of $300,000 homes and government-built shacks, of landfills and sacred mountains, of holy burial grounds and a Wal-Mart store.
Stretching from Pima Road to the confluence of the Salt and Verde rivers, the reservation shares borders with Mesa, Tempe and Scottsdale. Except for small sections that touch the Fort McDowell Indian Community and the Tonto National Forest, it is surrounded by the Valley's urban sprawl.
Which means that to developers, it's an inviting piece of real estate.
But to Makil and approximately 5,500 other registered community members, the reservation is more than high-end real estate. It's their ancestral homeland. And Makil is the gatekeeper.
Makil is headed back to that homeland now. His business lunch at a trendy Scottsdale eatery is over, and he's tooling along Indian School Road in his official Ford Crown Victoria. He cranks up a Van Morrison tape, checks his phone for messages, starts returning calls. Within minutes, he crosses Pima Road, and he's back home. He sighs a little.
"I don't think there's one person who lives in this community who doesn't breathe a sigh of relief when he crosses over onto the reservation," he says.
Forty-four years old, soft-spoken, youthful, with a hip haircut and a stylish wardrobe, Ivan Makil is typical of a new generation of Indian leaders--every bit as tribal, but far less isolationist than their predecessors.
That willingness to deal with other cultures has made Makil more than controversial, both within and outside a reservation that is becoming a major economic force in Arizona.
As one community member says, "People are afraid of change. Ivan has an education, and he's outgoing. He's outspoken, and maybe some people don't like that. He's not the stereotypical Indian leader."
Makil puts it another way.
"Indian leadership is changing. One of the most important changes is that we can talk until we are blue in the face about our past history [with white people], but it doesn't help us move ahead.
"At some point, you have to let it go."
What Makil won't let go of is a good business opportunity. Friends and enemies alike say he is a shrewd businessman. Yet his business deals are part of a complex set of controversies that have brought him high praise and stinging criticism, on and off the reservation.
Makil has been a key negotiator in lucrative business agreements that have put hundreds of millions of dollars in the community's bank accounts.
Among them are the unconstructed Outer Loop freeway, which brought in $247 million and 600 additional acres of land to the community; the $110 million Scottsdale Pavilions shopping center, at Pima and Indian Bend roads, which nets the tribe about $2.5 million a year in sales taxes; and gaming, in a soon-to-be constructed casino in a yet-to-be-revealed spot on the reservation.
Critics on the reservation question whether the deals have been good for the social structure of the community. Those detractors--more conservative, traditional types--say Makil's too outspoken, stands out too much, has too many white friends; that he's manipulative, self-serving, arrogant.
Since he became president in 1990, he's endured three attempts to recall him from office. One was successful, but he was reelected just a few weeks later, prompting talk of yet another recall election.
He's been charged with purposely negotiating the freeway deal to enrich himself; he says that claim is "absolutely untrue." When Makil's wife, Sarah, obtained a restraining order against him in April 1993, alleging that he roughed her up during a quarrel, Makil's on-reservation enemies distributed fliers branding him a wife beater. He publicly apologized to Sarah and the community, but the incident has not helped his political career.
These days, he won't say much about that event. "I wish I could make it better, but I can't. It happened. I made a mistake," he says.
Makil has been as controversial off the reservation as on.
He has championed battles over the ownership of Saddleback Mountain, the control of Pima Road and the alignment of the Outer Loop. The battles have strained the already-brittle relationship between the Pimas and their neighbor to the west, the City of Scottsdale. And they have almost always cost those neighbors huge amounts of money.
Makil acknowledges that he's controversial--and that he's not entirely comfortable being controversial. He is, after all, a tribal person, a Pima.
"You know enough about our people to understand it is not always advisable to go solo," he said several months ago, when an in-depth interview was first suggested.
And it may be Makil's Pima reluctance to discuss his affairs in detail--to clear the air in a definitive way--that fuels the gossip and speculation that swirl around him.
Makil's political and business allies say the gossip is just that--gossip. They call him a visionary leader: brilliant, effective and honest.
They credit him, and a well-informed tribal council, with leading the Indian community toward a self-sufficient future, free from the vagaries of government handouts.
In their view, the recent business deals have helped the community become fiscally sound, while preserving--even extending--the reservation's land base.
But the gossip has remained, never completely refuted or substantiated.
After weeks of thought, Makil agreed to grant New Times a series of intensive, often intimate interviews--the first he has given to any publication. It was a risky step. A lengthy article featuring Ivan Makil might make him even more vulnerable to political enemies, who could interpret it as a sign that Makil had been "boastful"--a horrible thing to be if you're a Pima.
Part of Makil sees no need to explain himself or his people to outsiders; his community has often formed a tight, protective ring around itself when scrutinized by non-Indians. There's another part of Makil, though, that yearns for non-Indians in the Valley to "respect" and "understand" his people. "It's unfortunate. But for too long in Arizona, people have not understood why we think the way we do, why we do the things we do, why we feel the things we do," he says. "If there is anything I hope to accomplish, it's to begin to change the attitude of how people out here feel about themselves.
"A lot of that attitude comes from the respect of other people."
"Indians aren't lazy," jokes Ivan Makil. "We just handle stress well."
Some days, though, even Ivan Makil needs to slip away from the back-to-back meetings and endless phone calls that make up his 12-hour days. What he does then is jump in his Ford pickup, crank up the CD player--today, it's blasting Patti Austin--and take to the back roads of the reservation.
Like the Man in the Maze, the ancient Pima symbol that's become the official emblem for the Salt River community, he sometimes yearns to cut through the complicated life he's chosen to find peace.
Usually, he heads for Red Mountain, a cayenne-colored butte near the Verde River. It is sacred to many Pimas, and off-limits to most non-Indians. Once there, Makil pulls out his binoculars and looks, every now and then, into the sky.
"Two birds of strength," he says, pointing to a red-tail hawk circling in an incredibly blue February sky. Above the hawk, there is an eagle, flying so high it eventually disappears into clouds. Makil sits quietly on a slab of granite, taking in the squeal of a baby bobcat waiting for its mother, the distant yip-barks of a traveling coyote family. He remembers coming here as a kid; he even ate bugs here once. "I remember one day my dad told me the old Pimas used to eat locust, so we roasted some on a stick to see how they tasted," he says. Pretty blah, is how he remembers them. Makil didn't always have his dad around, though. His parents divorced, and relatives say it was Ivan Makil's mother who put energy into raising her five children. (She declined to be interviewed for this article.)
Living on or near the reservation for most of his life, Makil learned Pima etiquette and culture as a child. Today, he's a Pima through-and-through. The background comes across when he talks about "my family," which means his entire extended family, including great-aunts and third cousins. "What I do, I do for my family," he says. "Not just blood relatives, but the whole community."
Or when he talks about "respect," which includes an entire set of behaviors. To show respect means to refuse to control, interrupt or raise one's voice to another. To refuse to pry. It means, in the truest sense, to acknowledge another human being or culture for what it is, without trying to dominate or change it.
Makil learned early on that in the Pima world, it's reprehensible to be "boastful" by setting oneself above other community members. To this day, he fears that as a leader he may appear boastful.
And he learned to take time making decisions, believing, in the Pima way, that rushing into something might cause regrets later on. (It's a trait that maddens some non-Indians, and it explains why Makil and the tribe took eight years to negotiate the $247 million freeway deal.)
Ivan Makil learned all these things as a child living on the reservation.
He learned other things from the non-Indian world.
When he was in second grade, Makil returned home from school in Scottsdale with a note pinned on his chest. The note said he would no longer be accepted in Scottsdale schools because he was Indian. Pimas would be bused to Mesa schools from now on, the note said.
The reason: The school district no longer accepted federal funds that paid for the education of Indian children.
The racist subtext of the exclusion was not lost on Ivan's parents, or on Ivan when he grew up. "I was young and I didn't understand at the time, but later I did understand," he says. "It hurt, sure. It still hurts a little, but I try to put it behind me."
Ivan wasn't the only kid who was segregated from the Scottsdale School District; several members of the tribal council reportedly suffered the same insult. That bit of history explains a lot about why Pimas don't much trust Scottsdale officials, and why the two communities have such bitter public standoffs.
People who went to school with Ivan Makil remember him as a mischievous kid who was always the first to jump into the swimming hole at the river, even if he didn't know how deep it was. He was bratty with girls. One cousin remembers that at a church breakfast Ivan had the whole room roaring when he suggested the girls drain the fat from their breakfast bacon so they could rub it on their wind-chapped legs.
"Chicken legs" is what he called them.
Makil says he didn't enjoy school much; he never graduated from ASU. Oddly enough, it was trumpet playing that led him into tribal administration. He was known around the reservation as a musician. So when administrators decided to make musical videos for schoolchildren, they asked Makil to help. In the mid-1980s, Makil became the tribal spokesman. In 1990, after allegations that then-president Gerold Anton had accepted kickbacks from a tribally owned business, Makil became president via special election.
During all of this time, Makil's relationship with his father, Milfred, was rocky. In the late 1970s, Ivan helped in the elder Makil's tobacco shop on the Makil family allotment near Pima and McDowell roads. The elder Makil did not always pay his business debts, and angry creditors occasionally took him to court to ensure payment.
Milfred Makil also had a partner who, when the business began failing, abandoned him. Ivan Makil became more and more forceful in telling his father how to operate the shop.
"My dad was not experienced in business, and I think he was taken advantage of," Makil says. "We ended up on opposite sides."
In a small community, the tobacco shop was the subject of much gossip.
Some Indians didn't like it that the younger Makil had a hand in running the store. They were vaguely suspicious of Milfred's business partner; some thought another member of the community should have gotten to manage the store instead of Ivan.
Makil himself allows that he wasn't an especially likable guy during his days at the tobacco shop. He'd forgotten his Pima manners. "In the cigarette business, I had to be forceful, I thought, and I got loud for a while. I got away from music, and there were times when I was really hard on people.
"I thought I was accomplishing something, but all I did was make people feel worse."
Makil and his father did not become close until shortly before Milfred's death last year. On reflection, Makil figures the real fight he had with his dad was not over business practices, but about who was right--and who had more power.
Ivan Makil married twice. He has one son by his first marriage, which ended in divorce. He has four sons by his current wife, Sarah, who is part Maricopa and part Navajo.
He says he has not always been a great husband, although he's never admitted to physical violence of any sort. "If I got away from my music, I realized, I lost my sensitivity." he says. "It was disastrous for people I wanted to be close to, my friends and family. At times I could be terrible to my first wife, and at times I could be terrible to Sarah."
Makil's wife, Sarah, declined to be interviewed for this article, but in April 1993 she alleged that her husband shoved her against a wall and tried to choke her during a fight. Later, she wrote a letter to the community asking members not to recall her husband from tribal leadership.
"The truth is, Ivan and I have had marital problems, and physical contact occurred," she wrote.
"Contrary, however, to the stories that are now circulating, I am not now nor have I been in fear of my life," she said later in the letter.
Makil, too, sent a letter out to the community. "Our elders have taught us that when an individual or a family in our community has met with difficult circumstances, we are to form a tight, protective band around that family," he wrote. "Unfortunately, some of our community members have chosen the way of outsiders."
He went on: "In my life, I have made mistakes. I have apologized to my wife and family, and I apologize to you, my community. Now I ask you to surround my family and join with me in making our community a better place to live while maintaining our culture and our heritage."
Makil was never charged with physically abusing Sarah. Salt River tribal police refuse to release the police report on the incident.
"Our police department investigated that incident," says Detective Karl Auerbach, spokesman for the tribal police. "We forwarded the investigation to the prosecutor's office, which declined prosecution. The case was closed.
"It doesn't matter who the person was, or what he did, we followed our standard written policy not to release the records of an investigation in which prosecution was declined."
But the April 1993 incident with Sarah was enough to get Makil recalled in an effort led by one of his archenemies on the reservation, Merlin Schurz. When Makil ran for reelection several weeks later, Schurz contested the candidacy, pointing out that tribal laws prohibited Makil from running for the very same office from which he'd just been summarily booted.
What happened next was almost comical.
Although Schurz quickly obtained a court order to halt the election, the tribal council declared martial law, as Makil's denouncers and supporters ranted at each other in the council chambers. That declaration allowed the election to proceed, and Makil won. To this day, there is a constitutional-law dispute on the reservation over whether a recalled official can be reelected.
Makil was elected for a third time in August 1994, when his stormy first full term expired. Despite their almost continuous campaign to remove Makil from office, his political foes offer only vague reasons for their feelings against him.
When pressed, Schurz mentions the alleged spousal abuse, and Makil's subsequent "special" treatment by police and prosecutors. But what Schurz talks about most is the tobacco-shop affair that occurred decades ago.
After the tobacco shop began failing, Makil's grand-uncle asked for advice, Schurz recalls. How could the family get the shop back on its feet? Schurz found a guy to turn things around. But Ivan Makil got the job instead, Schurz says.
And although he provides no proof, Schurz claims that one of Ivan Makil's business associates may have been shady. "This is why I don't trust Ivan--because of his connection to this guy," he says.
One community member, who requested anonymity because, like most Pimas, she does not want to set herself apart from others on the reservation, says the vagueness of the allegation is typical.
"Ivan has taken a lot of shit out here. It's just like a small town, with small-town politics dominated by long-standing grudges."
If Makil bears any scars from the recall, he doesn't acknowledge them. He shrugs off the whole incident as a character-building experience. Today, he seems more popular than ever. At a recent charity fashion show at the reservation, Makil modeled a Western outfit. He was awkward, clownish. "We need some music," he said as he sprinted down the runway. "Where's the music?"
The crowd loved it, broke into applause.
As a child, Ivan Makil was told that his ancestors came to the Salt River Valley some 2,000 years ago. They farmed near the Salt River, and traces of their ancient canals still exist today, as do their petroglyphs, their shrines, their burial grounds.
The early Pimas called themselves Akimel Au-Authm, the River People. Visiting Spaniards gave them the name "Pima," because when the Spaniards spoke to these people in Spanish, the Indians answered, "Pimach," which means, "I don't understand you." In the 1850s, Pimas were joined by the Maricopas, a Colorado River tribe that had been pushed out of its homeland by a more aggressive tribe.
The River People and the Maricopas were reasonably happy on the reservation, which was formed in 1874, until they woke up one day in the 1880s to find the Salt River dammed up before it reached their farms.
At the turn of the century, the federal government carved parts of the reservation into "allotments," or small parcels of land that were to remain in the reservation but would be "owned" by tribal members and passed down through families for generations.
Some Pimas obtained permission to irrigate their fields and adapted to riverless farming. They remained subsistence farmers until the 1930s, when the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs benignly folded the small subsistence farms into larger plots. Thinking the Indians needed at least a little cash, the BIA leased the larger tracts of land to outside farmers for $10 to $15 per acre per year.
Pimas no longer had their traditional livelihood, and the community became largely dependent on the government. Many of the social problems that even the tribal government acknowledges--unemployment, high dropout rates, health problems ranging from high rates of alcoholism to diabetes and obesity--took hold in those post-Depression years when the lifestyle changed so dramatically.
"You take away the lifeblood of a community, and you virtually kill it," says Makil. "And when we finally find an alternative lifeblood, like gaming, then the government wants to control that, too.
"What we're trying to create is a strong financial base so we have a community that we're happy in, that we're safe in, where we can raise our children without having to suffer anymore."
The Salt River Community eventually got its water back--in spades. In addition to a healthy allocation from the Central Arizona Project--about 39.8 billion gallons a year-- the community has cemented its rights to water from Salt and Verde River dams. What's more, in 1988 the federal government and the State of Arizona placed $51 million in the tribe's community trust fund to pay for past damages caused by water deprivation.
And these days, it seems like everybody wants a piece of the Salt River Reservation. Business proposals--30 a month on the average--flood into the tribe's administrative offices. Makil himself fields 25 to 50 calls each day.
Makil works at least 12 hours a day and most weekends. His co-workers say he has a compulsion to completely understand every issue for himself, that he spends hours poring over technical and legal documents.
Makil is practically always late to meetings. That's because he's obsessed with absorbing data--no matter how long it takes--and because as a Pima he doesn't want to "disrespect" his staffers or business associates by interrupting them. If a staffer corners Makil in the hallway and has something to say, Makil will listen, even if he's two hours late for his next meeting.
A lot of non-Indian businessmen are surprised when they talk to Ivan Makil. He's not what they expect. "There is still an assumption out there that Indian people are ignorant, that we don't know what's good for us," he says. "Some people still think we'll settle for $1 million, while they take $12 million. That's sad, very paternalistic, and a waste of time for both of us."
One non-Indian who has gotten somewhere with the Pimas is David Larcher. Larcher first envisioned a shopping center at Pima and Indian Bend roads back in 1984, when he was 25 years old.
He and his company, now called Vestar Development Company, approached the City of Scottsdale with the idea of a supershopping center anchored by stores like Home Depot and Target, but, he claims, were rebuffed. "They let us know the Galleria and the Borgata were their cup of tea, and the only place they would put us was way up north," Larcher says. So Larcher contacted Makil, who was then the tribal spokesman. He credits Makil with helping him meet the landowners and get the tribe's confidence.
"The typical scenario is to push," he says. "But we learned not to push. We kept plugging away at it, talking to landowners and tribal officials." Eventually, the tribal council successfully lobbied for a federal law that helped Vestar attract investors. The law, which applies only to the Salt River Community, says that the community will settle financial disputes in federal, rather than tribal, courts. In other words, the community was willing to give up a small portion of its sovereign-nation status to facilitate a business deal.
In 1989, the Scottsdale Pavilions opened, Vestar having signed leases with the landowners that reportedly made them millionaires. The landowners, the tribe and the developers, however, will not disclose details of the deal.
Today, the Scottsdale Pavilions brings in about $2.5 million in taxes to the community in what amounts to city sales tax.
Under Makil's presidency, the community also has engaged the state in a legal battle to wrest other tax dollars generated by the Pavilions away from the state. The reason: The community contends it's a sovereign nation and businesses on its land should not pay taxes to the State of Arizona, but rather to the community itself.
The disputes over sovereign-nation status spurred by the Scottsdale Pavilions shed light on an ironic inconsistency. Depending on where the financial benefit lies, the community is either willing to relinquish sovereign-nation rights, as it did to ease the minds of Pavilions lenders, or fight for them, as in the sales-tax battle with the state.
After the opening of the Pavilions in 1989, Makil and the tribal council created a blueprint for further development on the reservation--that is, a "Vision Statement." In that vision, commercial development primarily will be targeted on a narrow swath of land to the west of the Outer Loop freeway, which will snake through the entire north-south length of the reservation. To the east of this commercial strip, the rural lifestyle will be protected.
Under the Vision Statement, buildings will have height restrictions, so Red Mountain can be seen from any spot on the reservation. So far, two large projects have been built according to the statement--a Texaco service station at the corner of Indian School and Pima roads, and just south of it on Pima Road, a Wal-Mart. The discount store is as Indian as you can expect a Wal-Mart to be, with earth tones and Indian designs incorporated into the warehouselike architecture.
The tribe also hired a Wrightian architect to design a "soaring eagle" prototype house, designed for 65 families relocated to make way for commercial development. The house, structured to compliment the Pima lifestyle, has a tortilla-making fireplace that sits just outside, a carryover from the days when women gathered outside on Sunday afternoons to make tortillas.
The soaring eagle didn't go over too well on the reservation, though. Only a few relocatees chose it. Others opted for more traditional, non-Indian houses. Whether soaring eagle or Anglo, though, the new houses on the reservation are an improvement over the depressing, government-built tract homes in older housing developments on the reservation.
"What our people have grown up to think is that if it's over on the other side of Pima Road [in Scottsdale], then it's good. So they chose to live in houses like those across the road," says Makil. "The important thing is that we introduced the idea that we can be creative about who we are and how we live."
Although Ivan Makil may not like it, his public image has less to do with creative architecture than with duels over freeways, landfills, Pima Road and Saddleback Mountain. When his community flexes its economic muscle, he acknowledges, the non-Indian public often sees the result as a way to stick it to white people for wrongs committed decades ago. That's not the case, Makil says. Pimas simply want the same lifestyle as anyone else. What's wrong with that, he asks.
Don't we deserve it, he asks.
We just want respect, he says.
Perhaps the biggest threat to that respect was also the broadest public relations disaster of Makil's tumultuous presidency--the breaching of the Salt River Landfill.
The Salt River ripped open the tribally owned landfill during winter floods in 1991 and 1992. Non-Indians were furious. In 1992, thousands of volunteers cleaned up thousands of truckloads of garbage that had been strewn on the river bank.
Makil says the tribe knew the landfill was a problem, had been working on fixing it when the storms came. The tribe closed the landfill shortly after the second flood.
Then the tribal government opened yet another moneymaking landfill--with Makil's support. Bringing the tribe money has been Makil's hallmark.
He was the key tribal negotiator for the Outer Loop freeway deal, in which the state paid the Indians $247 million in land and money to build a north-south freeway extending from the Salt River bed to Via Linda in Scottsdale.
During eight years of negotiations, the Arizona Department of Transportation waffled among three options: dividing the freeway between Scottsdale and Indian property; building the freeway in Scottsdale; and putting the freeway entirely on Indian land.
By the time the Indians received their checks in 1990, 600 individual allottees, including Makil, received a total of $172 million for signing right-of-way agreements. The remainder of the compensation--including 600 acres of new land on the east side of the reservation--went to the tribe. Although many critics say the Indians were paid inflated prices for the land, the Arizona Department of Transportation still maintains it will be cheaper to build on vacant Indian land than to buy out homes and businesses in Scottsdale.
Following the freeway settlement, Makil's enemies said he and other tribal officials enriched themselves, negotiating the freeway run through their land, making it ripe for commercial development.
Makil says such charges are "absolutely untrue." The entire community and the 600 landowners had to approve the freeway design, he says. If they didn't want the freeway to snake by his family's land at Pima and McDowell, he says, then certainly they could have voted it down.
He will not reveal how much money he and his family made on the deal.
Nor will any other landowner.
It's nobody's business but ours, they say.
In fact, all records of payment to individual landowners are unavailable for public scrutiny because of federal privacy laws, the Arizona Court of Appeals and Supreme Court ruled in 1990, after the Phoenix Gazette tried to obtain the financial records from the tribe.
Since the freeway deal, the community has built a senior center and health clinic. The tribe's government has also stashed an untold amount in a bank-administered community trust fund. No one in tribal government will reveal just how many millions are contained in the trust fund, which automatically reinvests its dividends. All tribal councilmembers have access to reports on the fund.
"The community doesn't like to talk about money," Makil says. There's a real fear that government programs will further dwindle if the public thinks Indians are rich, he says.
"We're still the poorest of the poor," he says. "Our people are just now starting to get necessities that everyone else has had for years." (Of the community's $22 million budget in 1994, only $8 million came from the federal government. The rest was generated by the tribe through taxes, tribal businesses and investments, including Miss Karen's Yogurt, a private company controlled by the tribe.)
"We were willing to give up the rest of the Valley for this one spot," says Makil. "We came to an agreement with the government that we'd stay on the reservation in exchange for education, health and safety. The problem has been in the way in which the government has chosen to deliver those services."
Ivan Makil is as cautious about the City of Scottsdale as he is about federal government.
There is, of course, the whole matter of the Scottsdale School District culling Pima kids just a few short decades ago.
Then there's the long-standing feud over Pima Road, a tangle that's enriched the Pimas and frustrated Scottsdale. There's a two-year court battle over Saddleback Mountain. And there is Scottsdale's horror over the Pimas' announcement that a casino will soon appear someplace on the reservation.
"The community's relationship with Scottsdale has always been strained," says Dick Wilks, a tribal attorney. "Officials in Scottsdale are constantly concerned about what goes on in Salt River, especially now since the community has started to flex its muscle. There's this nervousness."
Scottsdale Mayor Herb Drinkwater denies a serious conflict exists. Makil and Drinkwater have fought most often over a north-south artery called Pima Road. The east side of the road belongs to the Pimas; the west lane, to Scottsdale. One day a few decades ago, Scottsdale paved the Indian side of the road without obtaining permission from the Pimas.
"That was disrespectful," says Makil.
The Pimas filed a trespass suit, and won.
But that wasn't the end of the drama. In 1986, the Pimas closed the road for eight months when the two parties couldn't agree on a lease. The city turned its side of the road over to the transportation department, which then agreed to lease the Indian side of the road for two years at $435,000 a year.
Ivan Makil was tribal spokesman back then. He kept telling the newspapers that Scottsdale had failed to show the proper respect.
When the Outer Loop deal was signed, the Indians granted the state a 55-foot right of way to widen Pima Road to three lanes.
Then Scottsdale wanted to widen it to four lanes, which meant road builders would have to take an additional ten-foot-wide strip of Indian land.
That didn't sit well with the community. "People say what's the problem, the Indians have all that land over there," says Makil. "But now, five years after the Outer Loop agreement was signed, they want to take more land. It's not just ten feet of land to us. It's a fight to preserve our land base."
The Pimas and Scottsdale are still engaged in mano a mano struggle over Pima Road, but it appears that another long-term battle between Scottsdale and the Indians has finally been settled.
Back in 1993, the Pimas decided to bid on 700 acres of land that includes picturesque Saddleback Mountain, which is located just inside the city limits of northeast Scottsdale.
The land was to be auctioned off by the Resolution Trust Corporation, and the Indians reportedly put in the highest bid. But the day before the auction, Scottsdale filed suit against the RTC in federal court, seeking to condemn the land so the Indians couldn't buy it. The word was that Scottsdale was terrified the Indians would set up a casino within the city limits. The Indians intervened in the lawsuit, claiming that Scottsdale couldn't interfere with their bid to buy the mountain. Two years later, Scottsdale and the Indians appear to be reaching an out-of-court settlement that would require federal legislation. If the settlement is signed and legislation is passed, Drinkwater and Makil both hint, the Indians would keep most of the land, while Scottsdale would maintain control of Shea Boulevard--a provision apparently aimed at staving off more road conflicts. The way Ivan Makil sees it, the two-year fur fight could have been avoided if Scottsdale had talked, instead of racing off to court. "We deserve to receive a phone call instead of reading about these things in the paper.
"I think they would rather ignore us," Makil says. "But I think they are starting to respect us.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.
- Mesa Police Kill Woman During Asperger Meltdown
Wed., Feb. 10, 7:30pm
Thu., Feb. 11, 8:00am
Fri., Feb. 12, 7:00pm
Mon., Feb. 15, 7:00pm
- Troublemaking Teens Busted in Tempe Car Shootings
- Joe Arpaio's Headless Horse to Be Buried; Horse Group Picks Fight with State...