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Tohono O'odham inaugurate new Chair, Vice Chair Thursday

Posted at 9:55 AM, Sep 21, 2023

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — A change in leadership within the Tohono O'odham Nation took place Thursday morning at Tohono O'odham High School, about 40 miles west of Sells.

Hundreds of the Tohono O’Odham tribal members, plus representatives from the city of Tucson and Mexico celebrated the inauguration of chairman Verlon Jose and Vice Chairwoman Carla Johnson.

Inauguration 3

An emotional Vernon Jose addressed his people for the first time as chairman at the Tohono O’odham Nation High School.

“I don’t know whether to be excited or nervous, I just know there’s a lot of work to be done," Chairman Jose said.

Tucson’s mayor Regina Romero was an honored guest speaker, telling the crowd she looks forward to continuing the city’s strong relationship with the tribe to continue under the new administration.

“The city of Tucson, as the responsible stewards of these lands, have been working to recognize and correct the historical harm that has been inflicted on the Tohono O’odham peoples and indigenous peoples," Romero said.

Inauguration 2

Vice Chairwoman Johnson became the second woman elected to the position in Tohono O’odham history.

She served as the CEO of the nation’s economic development authority.

“Throughout the history of our people, our leaders have protected, motivated, inspired and challenged us, and we plan to continue this legacy," Johnson.

Chairman Jose is the 20th chairman of the Tohono O’odham nation.

Adam Klepp is a reporter for KGUN 9. At his previous station in Yuma, Adam focused on a range of local issues including the border, water rights and healthcare. He is originally from Detroit, Michigan, and attended both Loyola University Chicago and Syracuse University. Share your story ideas and important issues with Adam by emailing or by connecting on Twitter.