Tucson International Airport Amplifies Indigenous Voices with Gallery Dedicated to Native Artists

The Tucson Airport Authority (TAA) welcomed Pascua Yaqui representatives and members of the Tohono O’odham’s San Xavier District to Tucson International Airport (TUS) to amplify indigenous voices through dedicated art exhibitions in the terminal’s International Arrivals Gallery. The artwork was installed ahead of inaugural air service between TUS and five Canadian airports.

The International Arrivals Gallery provides a first impression for travelers who have been cleared by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in the terminal’s Federal Inspection Services (FIS) facility. The gallery is located pre-security, near the Concourse A exit, so all visitors are welcome to enjoy the space.

“As you look around this gallery, you see the exceptional work of many indigenous artists,” said TAA President and CEO Danette Bewley. “It is important to us that this airport provide a sense of place to everyone who comes through the terminal, including these artists. We want travelers to feel like they are in Southern Arizona, and we want locals to feel like they are home.”

On Thursday, May 18, 2023, TAA Board Chair Keri Silvyn joined Bewley in making remarks to those in attendance. Both Pascua Yaqui and Tohono O’odham representatives shared a blessing in the gallery as well.

Many of the paintings featuring Tohono O’odham artists represent the annual baihidaj, or saguaro fruit harvest. The hasan, or saguaro, is revered and used to produce a ceremonial wine that is used during an annual rain ceremony. The ceremony celebrates the start of the summer rainy season, which signifies a new year for the Tohono O’odham. Pottery depicts Kehina social dances, and maze designs illustrate challenges overcome and returning home to the Creator.

“Our Wak Community (San Xavier District of the Tohono O’odham Nation) is honored to have these items on display for passengers to view as the arrive in our homeland Tohono O’odham Jewed (Desert People’s Land),” said San Xavier District Chairman Austin Nunez.

While the art has been on display for months, the May 18 event was the first time that everyone involved in the gallery’s development had been in the space together.