The original ancestors of the Ak-Chin O'odham (People) came from a small village near Kaka on the Tohono O'odham Nation. These villagers would travel northward along the Vekol Wash for seasonal farming. The Ak-Chin area was a prime location for flood irrigation and, over time, the seasonal farming became a year long tribal practice for the people. Hence, the Ak-Chin farming area became a permanent farming village. The word Ak-Chin translates as "where the wash loses itself".
The essence of the Ak-Chin O'odham Him-Dak Way of Life is a strong, balanced individual and people through cultural philosophy, values and practices. The culture of the Ak-Chin O'odham is intrinsically tied to the natural world, which is symbolized in the arts of basketry and music, in respecting the land for a healthy harvest, and in storytelling revealing the history and beliefs of the O'odham. The values of the culture include to respect one another, to be healthy is sprit and body, and to uphold a strong family structure.
The small farming area of the Ak-Chin Indian Community ("Community") is located in western Pinal County, south of the City of Maricopa approximately 30 miles south of the Phoenix Metropolitan Area. The reservation of the Ak-Chin Indian Community was first established by President Taft's Executive Order No. 1538 on May 28, 1912 at 47,600-acres. Within five months of declaration, the reservation was reduced by more than half of its current size of 21, 840 acres through Executive Order No. 1621 on October 8, 1912.
The Community is a federally recognized Indian Tribe that is governed by a five-member Council under its Articles of Association approved by the Secretary of the Interior on December 20, 1961. Through the Articles of Association the Community exercises its powers of self-governance by creating its laws, ordinances, and codes.
Currently the Community has three enterprises. Two are located on the reservation, one adjacent to the reservation. The enterprises are Ak-Chin Farms, Harrah's Casino and Resort, and Ak-Chin Southern Dunes. Ak-Chin Farms, oldest of the enterprises, was established in 1951 and cultivates approximately 16,000 acres of crops on an annual basis. It is one of the largest farming communities in the United States. Harrah's Casino and Resort opened its doors in 1994. Building on its economic success, the casino is slated to open 152 additional hotel rooms in July 2011. The newest Community enterprise is the Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club which is open all year long for professional and amateur golfers, as well as offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner at its recently $1 million renovated dining facilities.
The Community has prepared two Fee–to-Trust applications to the Department of Interior (DOI), Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) that include the property boundaries of two Community-owned tracts: Southern Dunes Golf Club tract and Bunger/PRA tract. The Fee-To-Trust applications must follow rigorous Federal Statutes of 25 CFR Part 151 Land Acquisitions process, which includes notification of state and local governments, compliance of all environmental clearances, review of property title documents, and notification for comments. The purpose of the application is for the Ak-Chin Indian Community to enhance its economic development and enterprises for long-term community development and sustainability. The two tracts being incorporated into trust status would offer tremendous opportunity to enhance current and future economic initiatives. Currently, unlike municipalities, the Community has no property tax revenue base to fund infrastructure projects such as roads, housing, public use buildings, public service programs, police, and fire, which creates a significant challenge for any economic or community development. Because of this situation, the tribe must diversify its tribal businesses to generate much needed non-governmental revenue to support various economic initiatives. Seeking new opportunities to diversify its economy and creating career opportunities for tribal and non-members is another reason for the Fee-to-Trust applications. The two tracts the Community is proposing to transfer into Trust are contiguous to the reservation. The Community will not change the current land uses and does not intend to place any gaming facility on these tracts.
Transferring these two tracts into Trust offers enormous economic opportunities for the entire western Pinal region. Businesses on the reservation create job opportunities for the residents of neighboring communities and purchase goods and services that translate into a "multiplier effect" as this capital circulates throughout the region. For example, the Harrah's Casino and Resort is considered to be the largest employer in western Pinal County with 98% of its employees living off reservation and paying local taxes, purchasing goods and services off reservation, and paying property taxes in cities in which they reside. A recent economic impact analysis documented the total output of Ak-Chin Indian Community economic activity at $436,997,503 for 2010.