Giving voice to Native American activism in Phoenix

May 29, 2019

In 2016, what began as a grassroots effort against the Dakota Access Pipeline drilling project in North Dakota grew into a sweeping movement gathering thousands of protesters from around the country to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

Several states away, Napoleon Marrietta, a member of the Phoenix area’s Gila River Indian Community, was engulfed in another Native-led battle, against a highway extension project in Phoenix. Napoleon Marrietta, a graduate student in The College's American Indian Studies program, grew up not far from the Tempe campus on the Gila River Indian Community. After completing concurrent bachelor's degrees in social justice and American Indian studies, Napoleon Marrietta is set to graduate with a master's degree from The College's American Indians Studies program this fall. Download Full Image

The 22-mile Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway stretch was designed to ease traffic congestion. But its path cut through a portion of South Mountain, a range highly sacred to tribes across the Valley. When Standing Rock was taking off, Marrietta and other activists were in the middle of a legal battle to stop the freeway construction in its tracks.

But where Standing Rock galvanized Native Americans nationwide, the fight for South Mountain didn’t move far past Phoenix.

That difference is part of what propelled a return to academia for Marrietta, now a graduate student in The College of Liberal Arts and SciencesAmerican Indian Studies program at Arizona State University.

“Standing Rock had people from all over the place, including Phoenix tribes, coming together to battle this huge issue,” he said. “Fighting for South Mountain, we were grassroots, youth-led and trying to move forward with the weight of it all on our shoulders — I think my question now is why that huge mobilization sometimes doesn’t happen, even with something in our backyard.”

Urban organizing

From immigration and the border to incarceration and desert city planning, Arizona is a melting pot of issues. As the state capital, initiatives started in Phoenix have the potential to cast a wider net than perhaps anywhere else in the state. But with a metropolitan area of over 5 million residents, how does any one issue find its voice?

That’s one question Marrietta is looking to unravel in his thesis that focuses on how indigenous activists adapt and organize in the Valley’s urban sprawl.

The American Indian Studies program offers a master’s degree in tribal leadership and governance, and another in indigenous rights and social justice. After graduating from ASU with concurrent bachelor’s degrees in justice studies and American Indian studies in 2017, Marrietta saw the social justice graduate track as a chance to expand on both.

“I returned to gain more from the knowledge of my professors here and the efforts they have made in their communities, it made me feel like I could do something to contribute, too,” he said.

Native presence in Arizona

There are 22 tribal nations across Arizona today. Phoenix, its surroundings and ASU itself sit on the ancestral lands of many of them, including the Akimel O’odham and Pee-Posh constituting the Gila River Indian Community of which Marrietta is a part.

Growing up on tribal land just southeast of Phoenix, Marrietta immersed himself in environmental and social issues affecting his community while in high school. But he hesitates to call himself an activist. Instead, he sees his work as a response to his own experiences.

“Not having clean water sometimes, for example, or even the fact that you are growing up on a reservation, those are all issues, but you don’t really think about them that way, they are just a part of your life,” he said. “I didn’t really get into the literature and hearing similar things from other people until coming to ASU.”

Now set to graduate this fall, his research offers an academic examination of local struggles he is intimately familiar with.

Research as advocacy

Marrietta and fellow tribal, environmental and community activists spent years challenging the South Mountain freeway construction before a trial in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the case in 2017.

As the project nears completion today, he said recounting the fight is a painful process. But experiencing the highs and lows of social movements from the ground level also gave him a new perspective on the topics he learned at ASU and what felt like an opening to add new narratives to the record of history.

Documenting the fight through research is a way to honor those who gave their energy and explore his own role within it.

“Defending South Mountain was something I was active in, but so many came before me on that issue and others — I am just a sliver of something much larger,” he said. “My research now is focused on connecting the contributions of elders, youth and people with varying levels of education; those experiences are different, but (it) all feeds into one community.”

More than 3,000 Native American students were enrolled in ASU in 2018, a number that has more than doubled in the last decade and is now among the highest in the country. Still, with over 100,000 students across four campuses and multiple locations, the population represents a small percentage of ASU’s overall population.

For Marrietta, who also works as an American Indian Student Support ServicesASU American Indian Student Support Services is a unit of ASU's University College. graduate pathways assistant, elevating Native perspectives on and off campus is part of what fuels his drive to continue in academia.

“Dealing with social justice issues means that everyone wants a seat at the table, so sometimes the challenge is actually just being a Native American or indigenous person in these places,” he said. “But building upon an institution requires research, which in turn helps people understand things better — by writing about these groups, I figure I can contribute in a small way to that.”

Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Understanding verbal behavior in children with autism

ASU behavior analysis program to host renowned autism speaker Vincent Carbone

May 29, 2019

Having a conversation is something most of us take for granted. For people with autism, especially children, talking with family or friends can be challenging.

The Master of Science in applied behavior analysis (MS ABA) program in the Arizona State University Department of Psychology has partnered with Pinnacle Autism Therapy to host a workshop on verbal behavior in children with autism. The Understanding Verbal Behavior in Children with Autism Workshop will take place in the Memorial Union Ventana Ballroom (room 241) on June 1-2 and will be headlined by Vincent J. Carbone with Pinnacle Autism Therapy. The workshop will cover topics such as applied behavior analysis as a science and applications of ABA methods for teaching communication to people with autism. Vincent Carbone The ASU Department of Psychology is hosting Vincent J. Carbone for a two-day workshop on verbal behavior in children with autism. Download Full Image

“Vincent Carbone is a pioneer in our field. When the opportunity arose to partner with Pinnacle Autism Therapy and expose our program’s students to his prowess, it was a no-brainer,” said Adam Hahs, clinical assistant professor of psychology and director of the MS ABA program. “Our program produces behavior analysts who make an immediate impact all over the United States, so the opportunity to learn from an expert like Dr. Carbone greatly supports the development of our students’ behavior-analytic repertoires.”

Pinnacle Autism Therapy, a local organization that serves individuals with autism, is also one of the partners that provides MS ABA students with the practicum training they need for their certification exam. 

Carbone is a board-certified behavior analyst and has more than 35 years of experience designing learning environments for persons with autism and developmental disabilities. He trained at Drake University and has been faculty at the Florida Institute of Technology and Pennsylvania State University. Carbone has also worked as a visiting professor in the behavioral education doctoral program at Simmons College in Boston.

Carbone teaches applied behavior analysis and verbal behavior. He has prepared hundreds of students in several states and overseas for certification as a behavior analyst through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. He also has developed and presented a series of workshops that teach verbal behavior to children with autism. These workshops are based on B.F. Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior.

Related: ASU applied behavior analysis program is booming

What is applied behavior analysis?

The goal of ABA is to shape behavior in positive ways, and Behavior Analysts do this by systematically and experimentally investigating variables that are responsible for behavioral change. Though ABA is most often associated with interventions for individuals with autism, the applications of the discipline are far-reaching. Behavior analysts can address parenting challenges and underperformance in academic settings or develop support plans for individuals with substance abuse or eating disorders.

“Applied behavior analysis can help discover why people do things or how they respond to reinforcement and their environment,” said Don Stenhoff, clinical assistant professor in the MS ABA program. “We take the impact of ABA in a socially significant direction. We improve lives, and improve relationships with other people.”

Related: The psychology behind lasting behavior change

Tickets for the workshop can be purchased on the event website. Participants will learn how to conduct a behavioral language assessment, how to select appropriate forms of communication for a child and how to select the right communication responses and supporting skills to help children.

Robert Ewing

Marketing and Communications Manager, Department of Psychology