Tohono O’odham Nation Commits $1M to UArizona to Combat COVID-19

Nov 13, 2020
The contribution will allow UArizona researchers to continue developing better, more efficient and effective tests for people across the state.

TUCSON, Ariz. — The Tohono O’odham Nation has committed $1 million to the University of Arizona to help researchers fight COVID-19.

The gift was announced today at the UArizona College of Medicine – Phoenix at an event that included university President Robert C. Robbins, MD, Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris Jr. and Tohono O’odham Nation Legislative Council Chairman Timothy Joaquin. Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University, also attended. ASU is also receiving $1 million from the Tohono O’odham Nation.

The University of Arizona, the state’s land-grant institution, has been actively involved in understanding the coronavirus and testing people across the state since the pandemic’s arrival in the U.S. in the spring. An antibody test developed by immunologists in the College of Medicine – Tucson has been deployed throughout Arizona in partnership with Gov. Doug Ducey. The university also has developed a program to quickly test its students, faculty and staff, and has shared testing kits with communities across Arizona.

The Tohono O’odham Nation’s contribution will accelerate the work of UArizona researchers to create new, more efficient, effective and affordable COVID-19 tests, Dr. Robbins said.

“The University of Arizona is proud to partner with the Tohono O’odham Nation, particularly as our main campus is located on their ancestral homelands,” Dr. Robbins said. “As Arizona’s land-grant university, our mission is to serve the entire state, and the Nation’s support will allow this work to continue and expand, and help Arizona emerge stronger from this pandemic.”

Crow said more than 2,000 researchers at ASU were working to better understand the coronavirus and come up with science-based solutions to fight it. The funding, he added, will help that work to continue.

The funding will come from the Tohono O’odham Nation’s 12% gaming revenue grants that are required under its compact to share with local community programs. Under the compact, the Tohono O’odham Nation and other tribes are required to share a percentage of gaming revenues with local governments and qualified nonprofits.

The program is part of the compacts that were enacted in 2003 and since that time, the Tohono O’odham Nation has awarded more than 500 grants to local governments and organizations. The Tohono O’odham Nation is taking the unique step of awarding portions of its 12% grant funding from this year and next year to support efforts to combat the pandemic. These are the largest contributions the Nation has made to individual entities since the program began.

“This virus is showing no signs of letting up, and until we have better testing, treatment, and a vaccine, our communities remain at risk and our economy will continue to falter,” Norris said. “That is why the Nation made the decision to contribute these funds – which we were already committed to share – to support the world-class research taking place right here in Arizona that is working to overcome the pandemic.”

The Tohono O’odham Nation is a federally recognized tribe with more than 35,000 enrolled citizens. The Nation has the second-largest tribal land base in the United States, with more than 2.8 million acres of reservation land in central and southern Arizona. The Tohono O’odham Nation operates casinos at three locations in Southern Arizona – Tucson, Sahuarita and Why, Arizona – and one in the West Valley near Glendale.

The UArizona Health Sciences COVID-19 Research webpage can be found here.

For the latest on the University of Arizona response to the novel coronavirus, visit the university’s COVID-19 webpage.

For UANews coverage of COVID-19, visit

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A version of this article appeared originally on the UANews website.

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About the UArizona Health Sciences
The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. UArizona Health Sciences includes the Colleges of Medicine (Tucson and Phoenix), Nursing, Pharmacy, and the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona, the greater Southwest and around the world to provide next-generation education, research and outreach. A major economic engine, Health Sciences employs nearly 5,000 people, has approximately 4,000 students and 900 faculty members, and garners $200 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn | Instagram).

About the University of Arizona
The University of Arizona, a land-grant university with two independently accredited medical schools, is one of the nation's top public universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. Established in 1885, the university is widely recognized as a student-centric university and has been designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. The university ranked in the top 20 in 2018 in research expenditures among all public universities, according to the National Science Foundation, and is a leading Research 1 institution with $687 million in annual research expenditures. The university advances the frontiers of interdisciplinary scholarship and entrepreneurial partnerships as a member of the Association of American Universities, the 65 leading public and private research universities in the U.S. It benefits the state with an estimated economic impact of $4.1 billion annually. For more information: (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn | Instagram).

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