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Tuba city opens park in honor of Louise Yellowman

TUBA CITY, Ariz. - Yellowmania came to Tuba City May 10. Dozens gathered as Tuba City officially opened its first public park, named to honor Louise Yellowman, a longtime educator and a county supervisor for nearly three decades.

Yellowman is the first woman and the first American Indian to serve as a supervisor in northern Arizona's Coconino County. She was first elected to the Board of County Supervisors in 1980 and has served District 5 ever since.

''I think this is the best thing the county has ever done,'' District 4 Supervisor Deb Hill said.

''It was a great day of celebration, and has brought the community together to recognize an important advocate for all community members,'' District 2 Supervisor Liz Archuleta said. She hopes the public will show respect for this park and treat it ''like a piece of rare turquoise.''

Upper Village of Moenkopi Gov. Hubert Lewis said it was a great day for Tuba City and all of Coconino County. Yellowman has not only worked hard to represent her own Navajo people, but also the Hopi, Southern Paiute and non-Natives of the county, Lewis added.

For her part, Yellowman was her usual gracious, modest self.

''Thank you for making my day,'' she said. ''I'm kind of nervous, but kind of honored.''

Yellowman sees her life as one of harmony and balance, where she has had to walk in two worlds. She didn't speak English until she was 14. She went on to earn a master's in education from Northern Arizona University and worked as an educator for 31 years.

While working for Navajo Head Start, Yellowman implemented the Navajo Bilingual Program.

She worked on the need for schools in the Gap and Cameron, and was instrumental in getting a Dine' College extension in Tuba City.

Yellowman has also been heavily involved in local environmental issues, including the landfill.

Shonto Delegate Jonathan Nez, a candidate for Navajo County supervisor, said he hopes to model himself after Yellowman.

''This new park is a very good example of the county working well with the local community,'' Nez said. ''I would hope that this collaboration will be a model for other counties in the state in deliberating with Native American communities. I am very proud of Supervisor Louise Yellowman in her public service and laying the foundation for aspiring young Navajo leaders. Her positive work ethic reminds me of our strong Native women of the past.''

State Rep. Tom Chabin, District 2, said he was honored to get the chance to recognize Yellowman's life of service.

''She has been a part of the community from her heart,'' he said.

Tuba City was founded in 1903, and the Louise Yellowman County Park - located at Main Street and Moenave Road - is its first public park.

As the first, this park is like a newborn, said State Rep. Albert Tom, District 2. And like a newborn, it needs a lot of care, he added.

The park features picnic tables, a water fountain, skateboard/bicycle park, basketball court, shady ramada, playground equipment, a pavilion, grills and a public restroom.

Though others rushed to praise her, Yellowman said there were many others who deserved credit, too. The true legacy of the park will be that it represents the cooperation of many different people and agencies, she said.

Other people played a role in getting this park completed, but the vision belonged to Yellowman, former Navajo Nation Vice Chairman Frankie Paul said.

The park is one of 20 projects sponsored by the Coconino Parks and Open Space program. Funded in part by a sales tax initiative approved by voters in 2002, the project has been two years in the making. It is a combined effort of the open space program, county supervisors and the Coconino County Parks and Recreation Department.

John Christian Hopkins can be reached at