The development group responsible for bringing together the GRIC Landowners, the group fighting for the Loop 202 extension to go on tribal land, say their project and ultimate goal for the community has very little to do with whether or not the freeway extension is built.
Pangea, meaning “all lands” was started in 2006 with the goal to reconfigure allotted lands on the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC). Allotted lands are 10-acre parcels of land that were given to families in the community when the reservation was first set up. When the owner of the land died their land was split evenly among their family members. Now, years later some parcels still have one owner while other parcels are split among 400 owners.
Developers looking to build on the land must get approval from the land owner to do so, but because the land has been so divided it has made it difficult for landowners to do anything with their land. Pangea’s goal has been to bring all the landowners together so that together they can develop their land.
“The overall goal of Pangea is to create unity and integration for the land and its owners with other GRIC community members and neighboring communities within the greater Phoenix Metropolitan area,” said a statement from Pangea. “Pangea envisions an area free of stigmas and stereotypes where everyone is welcome and will live, work, and connect all people to one another while empowering and stimulating economic and personal growth for all. The reconnection of such broken land will protect tribal sovereignty and kindle respect for tribal heritage as well as the natural environment.”
Pangea’s current interest is to build a small city on approximately 6,000 acres of land just south of Pecos Road near Ahwatukee Foothills. Conceptual drawings on Pangea’s website show housing, sports facilities, an amusement park, corporate offices, and even a solar farm stretching across the land. While the drawings do show the Loop 202 Freeway going on allotted lands Pangea management says whether or not the freeway is built, the development will go forward.
“Pangea would like to clarify that the plan to develop the nearly 6,000 acres south of Pecos Road was born well before the controversy of the freeway and while the placement of the 202 may impact the structure of development, it will not slow or stop it,” they said in a statement. “This project is bigger than a freeway and Pangea does not intend to let the politics inhibit its forward motion. Pangea has merely facilitated the landowners and community members’ desires by facilitating a People’s initiative. The initiative was brought on by individual community members and is as it’s titled: a People’s initiative, not Pangea’s initiative. Pangea is merely facilitating communication between the landowners.”
Joseph Perez, founder of Pangea and a Gila River Indian Community tribal member, said this idea of uniting the lands and encouraging development came from his great uncle Ardle Ruiz. Ruiz taught Perez that true economic development was the only way to help heal the historical trauma the community has been suffering from for years.
According to 2009 census statistics, 63.1 percent of GRIC residents are living below the poverty line, compared to 16.9 percent of Arizona residents. Close to 40 percent of GRIC residents are living below 50 percent of the poverty level.
“We all play an important role to reclaim our heritage, identity, and cultural beliefs and bring unity back to our people and the opportunities Pangea presents will help us begin a healing journey that entails reclamation of our heritage, identity, and spirituality and will neutralize the negative effects of historical disruptive colonization,” Perez said. “We, as individuals need to work with our tribal government, the state, our neighbors in Arizona and the federal government towards self-determination and self-sufficiency.”
Perez will be part of the discussion on the Loop 202 taking place during the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce’s Public Policy meeting this Friday, Dec. 7, at noon.
For more information on Pangea, visit www.pangeland.com.
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