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Tohono O'odham Nation of Arizona

BIA Logo Indian Affairs - Office of Public Affairs

Displaced teachers and students return to the Bureau of Indian Education campus now equipped with new modular units, six new classrooms, a new dining facility, new computers, and refurbished buildings

Media Contact: Nedra Darling, OPA-IA Phone: 202-219-4152
For Immediate Release: March 25, 2019

SELLS, Ariz. – Today, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Tara Mac Lean Sweeney reopened the Santa Rosa Ranch School (SRRS), located on the Tohono O’odham Nation reservation. The school provides education for grades K-8 and serves approximately 66 students. The school had been closed since December 13, 2018, when the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) leadership and safety personnel identified several high priority deficiencies during a campus walk-through.

“I am proud to return to the Santa Rosa Ranch School after working closely with Tohono O’odham Chairman Edward Manuel and I was delighted to welcome back our students, teachers and staff today. I applaud the diligent and expedited response made by our leadership, staff and the SRRS Community to improve the school’s facilities and upgrade its equipment,” said AS-IA Tara Sweeney. “My priority is for our BIE students to receive a quality education and study in safe facilities and environments, and I continue to look forward to working with the community on future improvements.”

"The Nation has been very pleased to work with Assistant Secretary Sweeney and BIE to facilitate the prompt improvements and reopening of the Santa Rosa Ranch School,” said Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Edward D. Manuel. “Providing our youth with safe, accessible places to learn and grow is vitally important. We will continue working with our federal partners to ensure that schools on the Nation meet that standard.”

ASIA Sweeney toured the school’s new five modular units and refurbished buildings, which include several classrooms and a kitchen. Additional improvements at the school include:

  • The installation of new access ramps, access platforms and stairs.
  • The installation of fencing around the campus area.
  • The installation of a new fire alarm system.
  • The installation of six new classrooms.
  • The new kitchen includes a dining room facility with new furniture, appliances and ice machine.
  • Preexisting buildings received new doors and fresh paint.
  • The Indian Affairs Office of Information Technology (IT) installed new computers with internet access and landline phones.

While the Office of Facilities, Property and Safety Management for Indian Affairs made improvements, the BIE provided daily transportation for displaced students and teachers to the nearest BIE school, Santa Rosa Day School, where the facilities include a gym, computer lab and cafeteria. Indian Affairs leadership and the Tohono O’odham leadership worked closely together to ensure an efficient time table was planned and followed for the SRRS to reopen on the target date set for when the students returned from Spring Break.

The Assistant Secretary–Indian Affairs advises the Secretary of the Interior on Indian Affairs policy issues, communicates policy to and oversee the programs of the BIA and the BIE, provides leadership in consultations with tribes, and serves as the DOI official for intra- and inter- departmental coordination and liaison within the Executive Branch on Indian matters.

The Office of Facilities, Property and Safety Management for Indian Affairs is responsible for policy, oversight, and technical assistance for facilities management, facilities construction, asset management, safety management, property management, and real property leasing for all of Indian Affairs, including Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE). These responsibilities are carried out through the Division of Facilities Management and Construction, Division of Safety and Risk Management, Division of Property Management, and the Real Property Leasing Program.

The Bureau of Indian Education implements federal Indian education programs and funds 183 elementary and secondary day and boarding schools (of which two-thirds are tribally operated) located on 64 reservations in 23 states and peripheral dormitories serving over 48,000 students. BIE also operates two post- secondary schools, and administers grants for 30 tribally controlled colleges and universities and two tribal technical colleges, and provides funding for higher education scholarships to Native youth.


Western Region


A swift overview of the Region’s tribes include the O’odham, Yaqui, Yuman and Pai Tribes of Arizona’s low and mid deserts and Grand Canyon, and the Apache of the mid-deserts and mountain forests.  The  Hopi  live on Arizona’s Colorado Plateau mesas.  Nevada has many bands and tribes of Washoe, Shoshone and Paiute people.  The many tribes and bands of Ute people are the inspiration for the name of the state of Utah.

BIA Logo Indian Affairs - Office of Public Affairs

Over 9,000 Fentanyl pills and hundreds of pounds of other drugs seized

Media Contact:
For Immediate Release: May 31, 2018

WASHINGTON - From May 15, 2018 through May 26, 2018, the Department of the Interior (DOI) Opioid Reduction Task Force conducted a Criminal Interdiction Operation in and around Tribal reservations in Arizona, seizing 9,050 Fentanyl pills, 48.2 pounds of methamphetamine, 1.2 pounds of heroin, 863 pounds of marijuana, one-half pound of cocaine, and $30,000 in cash. In total, the drug bust yielded a seizure of 913.5 pounds of illegal narcotics, with a street value of approximately $4,791,417.00, and led to 86 total arrests. The operation in Arizona is the second led by Interior’s Joint Task Force, which Secretary Zinke established to help achieve President Donald Trump's mission to end the opioid epidemic.

"Our task force on opioids continues to distinguish itself as one of the finest operations in law enforcement today; I could not be more proud of these professionals," said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. "It’s heartbreaking to see the scale of the problem, and rather than further stigmatizing victims, we are cracking down on the dealers who are selling out our children, selling out our communities, and selling out our nation. I thank our partners in Indian Country, along with state and local law enforcement, for their dedication to this mission. These brave men and women are keeping the opioid dealers up at night, and with good reason; if you are trafficking these drugs, we will find you, arrest you, and bring you to justice."

"A drug-free Indian Country is a healthy Indian Country. I commend the efforts of our BIA Division of Drug Enforcement agents, along with federal, tribal and state partners for successfully conducting this operation to eradicate drugs in tribal communities," said John Tahsuda, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. "Only together can we protect our loved ones from the harmful effects of these devastating substances."

Significant Seizures


33.2 pounds located in a vehicle tire with estimated street value of $1,754,212.00. (Tohono O’odham Reservation)


15 pounds located in a natural void of a Toyota Scion with a street value of $790,952.00. (Gila River Reservation)


1.2 pounds located in a natural void of a Toyota Scion with a street value of $55,501.00. (Gila River Reservation)


0.5 pounds located in a natural void of a Toyota Scion with a street value of $22,680.00. (Gila River Reservation)


863.588 pounds (four separate seizures) with an estimated street value of $1,802,072.00. (Tohono O’odham Reservation)


Approximately 9,050 pills with an estimated street value of $366,000.00. (Gila River Reservation)

Total Seizure:

913.5 pounds of illegal narcotics and approximately 9,050 fentanyl pills with a total street value of approximately $4,791,417.00.

Secretary Zinke has worked with tribes to carry out President Trump’s directive to stop the opioid crisis, conducting dozens of tribal visits to see the affected communities, while listening and learning about how to fight the crisis. In starting new initiatives to fight the epidemic, such as the creation of the Joint Task Force, the Department of the Interior is committed to giving all resources required to fight drug abuse.

The DOI Task Force for the Interdiction Operation consisted of Special Agents from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Division of Drug Enforcement (DDE) and BIA K-9 uniformed officers, along with the Tohono O’odham Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI-Sells, Arizona), US Border Patrol (USBP), Pascua Yaqui Tribal Police Department, San Carlos Apache Tribal Police Department, Gila River Tribal Police Department, Native American Targeted Investigations of Violent Enterprises (NATIVE) Task Force, and the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS). The Criminal Interdiction Operation focused on highways known for being high drug trafficking routes into and through Indian Country. This collaboration focused efforts on conducting high visibility enforcement operations with specialized drug interdiction teams.

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