Thomasene Cardona

by Lesley Aine McKeown

“Governance is not about leaders, it’s about having a long-term vision that includes our community.”

Yavapai-Apache Nation Tribal Council Member Thomasene Cardona has a vision, one for the future of her people, the Yavapai-Apache. Her tribe is a people in transition, and self-governance is her goal as a leader.

Establishing self-governance requires a deep understanding of the balance between maintaining tribal identity and working within the federal government infrastructure. Meeting the needs of the community, such as providing housing, can be very challenging.

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Cardona acknowledges that theirs is a young government, and that only through re-educating the people on the importance of self-governance can they achieve it. “Sovereignty can only come through our actions that create self-governance,” she says, “Without specific action to attain it, self-governance is just an idea.”

“Participation is absolutely essential, and the fight has to continue and it has to be very specific and intentional for us to be able to have a strong future for generations to come.”

Born for the Bear Clan and a gift to her father’s clan, the Des che’ ish kidn, (Rocky Ridge Clan), she is of Acoma, Yavapai and Apache descent, and was raised in the Clarkdale community. The Yavapai-Apache is a matrilineal society, and Thomasene’s mother and grandmother played integral roles in forming the leader she is today, teaching her that women play leading roles in the community.

She also cites the thoughtful and gentle guidance of her father in teaching her to stand up for what she feels is right, and consider all the aspects of a situation as being highly influential. Becoming a young mother, she began her adult life confronted with sizable challenges to her personal growth. Rather than allow these challenges to limit her, she chose to use them as learning experiences. Constantly setting goals that would cultivate growth and help her recognize her own abilities, she acknowledges that the challenges she has faced throughout her life have molded who she is today.

She was first in her family to obtain a college degree, completing a BA from Northern Arizona University and an MA in Social Justice and Community Organizing from Prescott College. “If we give ourselves opportunity, then we can excel.”

“I have been honored with the trust of the Yavapai-Apache people to serve as a Tribal Council member, and I give it my all because that is exactly what they deserve.”

Cardona currently serves on the Yavapai-Apache Nation Tribal Council. She is a Democratic Precinct Committee member, and is running for a position on the Camp Verde Public School Board.