Ak-Chin Indian Community
|Regions with significant populations|
|United States ( Arizona)|
|O'odham, English, Spanish|
|Christianity, traditional tribal religion|
|Related ethnic groups|
|other Tohono O'odham, Akimel O'odham, Hia-Ced O'odham peoples|
The Ak Chin Indian Community of the Maricopa (Ak Chin) Indian Reservation is a Native American community located in the Santa Cruz Valley in Pinal County, Arizona, 37 miles south of Phoenix and near the town of Maricopa. The community is composed mainly of Akimel O'odham and Tohono O'odham, as well as some Hia-Ced O'odham members.
The reservation was established by the federal government in 1912, under President William Howard Taft; within a few months his administration reduced it by more than half, due to opposition from non-Native farmers in the area. Gaining federal recognition in 1961, the tribe has established a large agricultural operation, aided by gaining water rights to the Colorado River in a 1984 federal settlement.
The tribe opened a gaming casino in 1994, with related hotel and resort facilities. In 2011 the casino and resort was the major contributor to the economy of Pinal County; it has expanded its hotel capacity since then with a new tower. In addition, it acquired the regional airport and has built a $50 million entertainment complex of 165,000 square feet near the city of Maricopa.
The Maricopa Reservation was established by the federal government in 1912, under President William Howard Taft, at 47,600 acres (193 km2) in size. Within months the administration submitted to opposition from farmers and other non-Natives and reduced the reservation to 22,000 acres (89 km2). The reservation is located in Pinal County within the Sonoran Desert, about 40 miles south of Phoenix and next to Maricopa.
The Ak-Chin Indian Community is headquartered in Maricopa, Arizona. It reorganized, creating a written constitution, by-laws, and elected government, gaining federal recognition in 1961.
Tribal council members serve three-year terms and are elected annually on a staggered basis. Each year the council elects a chairman and vice-chairman. The tribal council members and presiding officers in 2016 are the following:
- Council Member: Ann M. Antone
- Council Member: Delia M. Carlyle, Vice-Chairman
- Council Member: Gabriel Lopez
- Council Member: Louis Manuel
- Council Member: Robert Miguel, Chairman
As of the 2000 census, the population living in the community was 742, with a median age of 24.2, compared to a median age of 37.1 for all of Pinal County. According to the census 89.4% of the population identified as American Indian, alone or in combination with other races. Most of the population lives in Ak-Chin Village, in the western part of the reservation. Part of the city of Maricopa also lies within reservation territory.
The Ak-Chin Indian Community has its own written form of the O'odham language. It is in the Piman group of the Uto-Aztecan language family. The name Ak-Chin is itself an O'odham word that means the "mouth of the arroyo."
Ak-Chin Farms Enterprises is the Community's agricultural business. The 15,000 acres that it farms makes it one of the largest agricultural communities in the country. It has long used irrigation to support this enterprise. The tribe gained a federal settlement in 1984 for water rights, being entitled to 75,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water. The farms raise mostly cotton, barley, wheat and milo.
The tribe also owns and operates Harrah's Ak-Chin Casino, which opened in 1994, and related resort facilities: Agave's Southwestern Restaurant, Copper Cactus Grill, Harvest Buffet, the Range restaurant, and hotel, all located in Maricopa. The tribe owns the naming rights for the Ak-Chin Pavilion, a venue in Phoenix designed for various entertainment acts. The casino and resort draw customers from Maricopa and nearby county population, as well as from the large Phoenix metropolitan area.
According to a study conducted in 2011, "Harrah's Ak-Chin Casino Resort is the largest contributor to the Pinal County economy, accounting for nearly 1,100 jobs and generating more than $205.3 million in economic activity in 2010." Expansion of the resort by addition of a large hotel tower has generated higher revenues since then.
Revenues from the casino and resort have enabled the tribe to invest in other development. In 2006 it purchased the 450-acre former Phoenix Regional Airport property, renamed in 2012 as Ak-Chin Regional Airport. It is being improved. Nearby the tribe acquired the 50-acre Santa Cruz Commerce Center industrial park, which is being developed under leases. The tribe has set up the Ak-Chin Industrial Park Board to make leases and monitor development there. The tribe applied to the BIA to have both properties taken into trust on its behalf. It continues to work with local communities on development nearby.
In 2010 the tribe purchased the Southern Dunes Golf Club, which is open to the public for fees. The tribe makes it available as an amenity to guests at Harrah's Ak-Chin Casino Resort.
In November 2012, the tribe opened the $50 million, 165,000-square foot Ak-Chin entertainment complex, with a multi-theater cinema, bowling alley, restaurants, arcade and areas for staging events. It is located at the edge of the reservation next to the city of Maricopa. Mayor Christian Price said he thought the project would be "a great addition to the area" and that the city and tribe could encourage other development in the area. 
From its strong gaming and resort revenues, the tribe has made several improvements within the reservation, including the construction of a new fire station, water reclamation facility, and surface water treatment plant.
- "About Our Community", official website, 2013; Retrieved 1 Oct 2013.
- "Ak-Chin Indian Community." InterTribal Council of Arizona.
- "Notice of Inventory Completion: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Tumacacori National Historical Park, Tumacacori, AZ", Federal Register Volume 74, Number 136:34,775. 17 July 2009; Retrieved 1 Oct 2013.
- Christopher Leone, "Photos from inside the new $50M Ak-Chin entertainment complex", Phoenix Business Journal, 15 November 2012; accessed 23 July 2016
- "Census 2000 Summary File for Maricopa (Ak Chin) Reservation, AZ". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-08-08.
- Gordon, Raymond G., Jr., ed. Tohono O'odham. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International, 2005 (retrieved 23 Feb 2009)
- Johnson, Lauri Macmillan; Kim Duffek; James Richards (2008). Creating Outdoor Classrooms: Schoolyard Habitats and Gardens for the Southwest. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-292-71746-6. OCLC 175217539.
- Adam Bruns, "Bright Path Forward" (Ak-Chin Indian Community), Site Selection Magazine, May 2012; accessed 23 July 2016
- "Public Law 98-530, October 19 1984", Government Printing Office; accessed 23 July 2016
- "Harrah's Phoenix Ak-Chin", 500 Nations. Retrieved 1 Oct 2013.
- Ak-Chin Indian Community, official website
- Inter Tribal Council of Arizona: Ak-Chin Indian Community