Agreement Formalizes UArizona's Commitment to Pascua Yaqui Tribe

Liesl Folks and Peter Yucupicio

Peter Yucupicio, chairman of the Pascua Yaqui Tribal Council, and Liesl Folks, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, during a signing ceremony on Tuesday.

Chris Richards/University of Arizona

A new agreement between the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and the University of Arizona affirms the university's commitment to helping the tribe's members reach their higher education-related goals.

The intergovernmental agreement was signed by tribe and university leaders in a ceremony at Casino of the Sun on Tuesday. Among those in attendance were Liesl Folks, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, and Peter Yucupicio, chairman of the Pascua Yaqui Tribal Council.

Recognizing that the university resides on the lands and territories of Indigenous people, Folks said the university is committed to building relationships with all Native Nations in Arizona.

"That's a two-way process," Folks said. "We stand here today to embark on a partnership that stresses formal educational opportunities for the people of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, but I want to be really clear that we know that we have much to learn from you."

The university's key contributors to the agreement were by Nathan Levi Esquerra, senior vice president for Native American advancement and tribal engagement; Josh Estavillo, associate general counsel in the Office of General Counsel; and Robert Williams, a professor in the James E. Rogers College of Law and faculty co-chair of the college's Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program.

Yucupicio called Tuesday a "historic day" for the tribe and added that the partnership was an important step toward helping its members pursue higher education.

The event also included most members of the Pascua Yaqui Tribal Council, who commended the university's commitment to serving tribal members and said they look forward to building on the agreement with future goals.

Tribal Councilwoman Andrea Gonzales said the Pascua Yaqui Tribe is growing rapidly, with a large population of college-age members. The university's commitment to serving students in Southern Arizona is critical, she said, noting that she attended college at another state university.

"I definitely know the struggles of being away and being an out-of-town student, so for me, those things are important," she said. "And whatever we can do together as partners to further our collaboration would be great."