By Rose Kreher, NPC Staff Writer
A desire to better meet the needs of her people led Amelia Flores on a long and productive journey. Beginning as long ago as 1970, Flores, a Mohave Indian and enrolled member of the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT), began work in a variety of positions for the Tribes, primarily in the tribal museum located in Parker, Arizona. Forty-three years later, she serves as an executive officer of the nine-member Tribal Council, the CRIT governing body.
As Northland Pioneer College played a pivotal role in helping her achieve her goal, the college’s District Governing Board, at its April 16 meeting, honored Flores as the NPC Outstanding Alumnus for Spring 2013. Marketing Director Ann Hess, right, presented the award.
The Colorado River Indian Tribes is a 430-square-mile Native American reservation created by the Federal Government in 1865. Initially it included only two tribes, the Mohave and the Chemehuevi, who had lived in the area for centuries. It later incorporated the Hopi and Navajo peoples who had been relocated by the U.S. government to the reservation. CRIT currently has 3,500-4,000 active members.
Flores was named director of the CRIT library/archives in 1984. As she grew in her job she says, “I saw the need to obtain a more professional and academic education to help me preserve the cultural and linguistic heritage of my people.” Her dedication to accomplishing that task began at Arizona Western College (AWC) where she enrolled as a general studies student to gain a broad educational background. After completing over 40 course credits she also enrolled at Northland Pioneer College to earn an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in Library Media Technology. Even given the complication of living in her hometown of Parker (south of Lake Havasu City), Flores earned her AAS from NPC in just two years. “It was difficult at times and involved a great deal of independent study with monthly travel to NPC’s Winslow campus, but it all came together in the end!” In fact, Flores graduated from both AWC and NPC in the same year, 1997.
This was just the beginning of her educational journey. She continued by graduating summa cum laude from Northern Arizona University with a Bachelor of Science in Education degree in 2005; in 2008 she earned a Masters in linguistics from the University of Arizona.
Additionally, throughout her career, Flores has donated time to serving on numerous boards and commissions in both civic and professional arenas. She currently is one of five members of the Parker Unified School District Board and is also an elder for Parker Valley United Presbyterian Church. She recently stepped down after a four-year term as a council member of the Colorado River Indian Tribes Regional Partnership First Things First. She relinquished this position in order to stand for election for the CRIT Tribal Council saying, “I hated to give it up. Serving and speaking on behalf of our young children is so important, but there’s simply not time to do everything.”
Flores was serving as the Northern Arizona Regional representative for the Arizona Library Association, an association she still maintains, where she became acquainted with her alumnus award nominator, NPC librarian Deborah Holbrook. In her letter of nomination, Holbrook says, “While I did know her from her work in Arizona, I now see… that the Arizona connection was only the tip of the iceberg in her important work to preserve native language and culture.” Holbrook is referencing the acclaim Flores has received for her work in preserving the language and culture of the Colorado River Indian Tribes. In 2007, the CRIT library, under her direction, was awarded the Guardian of Language, Memory and Lifeways Medal of Honor presented by the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums, an award established to identify and recognize organizations and individuals who serve as outstanding examples of how indigenous archives, libraries, and museums contribute to the vitality and cultural sovereignty of Native nations.
The following year she received the “Revitalization, Implementation and Preservation of Tribal Language Award,” awarded at the annual Yuman Family Language Summit held to celebrate the culture and traditions of the Yuman Nation, an area encompassing Native American tribes from Southern California to the Grand Canyon to northern Baja, Mexico.
In 2012, the Guardians of Culture and Lifeways International again honored Flores and the CRIT collections with the Archives Institutional Excellence Award for demonstration of “a significant commitment to the preservation and use of documentary heritage.”
Flores’ life is a reflection of how incremental accomplishments add up to great achievements. She says she feels NPC and other community colleges are good starting points for Native American and other students from rural communities who may be overwhelmed by large universities and cities. Starting at schools like NPC where classes are more personal and the atmosphere generally provides a greater degree of support, can offer a solid educational footing. “You start by passing one test and say, ‘I did that; I can do that.’ And you go on, test-by-test, paper-by-paper, until you build the self-confidence and knowledge and experience that carry you forward through life.
As the Alumnus Award recipient, Flores will receive mementos of the college, a tuition gift certificate and a plaque recognizing her selection.
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