SELLS, AZ – The Tohono O’odham Nation and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) recently held a ceremony to celebrate the renaming of BIA’s administrative agency office as the Tohono O’odham Agency, previously known as the Papago Agency. The event included the unveiling of a new sign at the agency headquarters.
“This name change reflects the sovereignty of the Tohono O’odham people and aligns with the Department of the Interior’s commitment to the removal of derogatory place names,” said David Beeksma, Superintendent of the BIA Tohono O’odham Agency. “Racist and derogatory geographic names rob people of their dignity, and make it difficult to have a positive nation-to-nation relationship with tribes.”
“The event was an important, and historic one, that marked the growing respect between our peoples,” said Mary Lopez, member of the Tohono O’odham Nation Legislative Council. “The BIA said they would support us with this, and they kept their word.”
“Seeing the old name every day bothered me,” said Tohono O’odham Agency Facility Manager Isaac Jose, an enrolled member of the Tohono O’odham Nation who has worked for the BIA for 25 years. “It felt like people didn’t know or care how we felt about it. Now it feels different, like we really are starting something new.”