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Havasupai council member appointed to First Things First Coconino Regional Council
Longtime Grand Canyon and Native American advocate Carletta Tilousi to sit on early childhood development board

Arizona Havasupai and Tribal Council Member, Carletta Tilousi in 2010 during a a news conference. Tilousi was recently appointed as a member of the First Things First Coconino Regional Council. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Arizona Havasupai and Tribal Council Member, Carletta Tilousi in 2010 during a a news conference. Tilousi was recently appointed as a member of the First Things First Coconino Regional Council. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PEACH SPRINGS, Ariz. — The First Things First (FTF) Board recently approved Peach Springs resident Carletta Tilousi to serve on the FTF Coconino Regional Partnership Council.

Tilousi, who serves as the tribal representative, is the first Havasupai tribal leader to be a member of the council.

“The work I do is for the future children of the Grand Canyon, and for all my ancestors who endured the hardships of life in a remote canyon,” Tilousi said. “I am honored to tell our story.”

First Things First is Arizona’s early child care agency, helping define priorities for the local services and support for families with young children from birth to age five. By collaborating with other dedicated community members, they provide opportunities for young children to get a strong start in life.

Through a unique tiered governance structure, FTF has engaged hundreds of volunteers to serve on the board and regional councils and make decisions about how early childhood funds are spent.

Tilousi has worked for more than 25 years promoting social and environmental justice for the Havasupai Tribe and Indigenous peoples of the Grand Canyon. Through her service on the Havasupai Tribal Council, she has confronted the major issues of the day by improving the legal and financial infrastructure of the tribe to provide a better method to address societal and environmental threats, according to FTF.

As a member of the tribal council, Tilousi has served as an ambassador, presenting the tribe’s environmental and justice issues to the world. Among other roles, she has served as a delegate to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland and also presented the Havasupai uranium case at the World Uranium Hearings in Salzburg, Austria.

Tribal members, including Tilousi, and the tribal council were also engaged in a protracted legal dispute with Arizona State University over alleged improper human subject research conducted by university officials against the Havasupai people, according to FTF.

As tribal representative on the FTF Coconino Regional Council, Tilousi will work to ensure that early childhood services are provided in a way that honors their traditional way of life.

“It’s important for non-tribal people working with tribes to consider how they can best work with and honor the sovereignty of the tribe as opposed to the tribe making adjustments for non-tribal partners,” Tilousi said.

Tilousi said the Havasupai have lived in Supai Village and the region of the Grand Canyon for millenia. She said non-tribal people who hope to work with the tribe should do an orientation to Havasupai customs as well as review the laws they’ve put in place to keep their community safe.

“We’ve had our ways of taking care of things and those have suddenly disappeared, but I think we can revive them,” she said. “This is why it’s important that tribal members’ needs are given priority.”

More information about Tilousi or the work done by FTF is available at FirstThingsFirst.org.

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