U.S. District Court Judge remembers John McCain

More from this show

U.S. District Court Judge Diane Humetewa talks about her memories of Senator John McCain and also talks about legislation he worked on to help the American Indian Community.

JOSE CARDENAS: WE'LL HEAR MORE FROM TODAY'S CEREMONY THROUGHOUT OUR SHOW. WE'RE ALSO VISITING WITH GUESTS IN THE STUDIO WHO KNEW THE LATE SENATOR. DIANE HUMETEWA IS A UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE IN ARIZONA, SHE IS ALSO A MEMBER OF THE HOPI TRIBE AND WORKED WITH SENATOR McCAIN ON A NUMBER OF ISSUES RELATED TO NATIVE AMERICANS. JUDGE, WELCOME TO "ARIZONA HORIZON". YOU DIDN'T JUST WORK FOR SENATOR, YOU HAD A CLOSE PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP, AS EVIDENCED BY THE FACT THAT YOU WERE ONE OF THE YOU WERE ONE OF THE PALLBEARERS AT TODAY'S CEREMONY. TELL US HOW YOU CAME TO MEET HIM AND WHAT YOUR FIRST JOB WITH HIM ENTITLEED?

DIANE HUMETEWA: WELL, I ACTUALLY FIRST MET HIM WHEN I BECAME AN INTERN DURING THE SECOND SEMESTER OF MY SECOND YEAR OF LAW SCHOOL, AND I SPENT A WHOLE SEMESTER IN WASHINGTON, D.C. WORKING FOR HIS STAFF ON THE INDIAN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE AT THE TIME HE WAS THE VICE CHAIR. THEY DIDN'T USE RANKING MEMBER BECAUSE THEY TRIED TO MAKE IT A NONPARTISAN COMMITTEE. AND AFTER THAT SEMESTER, HE TOLD ME, IF YOU GRADUATE LAW SCHOOL AND IF I HAVE AN OPENING, I WANT YOU TO APPLY AND WORK FOR ME, AND THAT'S HOW IT ALL BEGAN. I APPLIED AND HE ACCEPTED ME AND AFTER LAW SCHOOL, THE WAY I WENT TO WASHINGTON, D.C.

JOSE CARDENAS: FOR ABOUT FOUR YEARS, RIGHT?

DIANE HUMETEWA: ROUGHLY FOUR.

JOSE CARDENAS: WHAT KIND OF ISSUES DID YOU WORK ON?

DIANE HUMETEWA: I WAS STAFF OR DEPUTY AT THE TIME, DEPUTY MINORITY COUNSEL ON THE SENATE INDIAN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE, AND LATER ON, THEN MAJORITY COUNSEL WHEN THE REPUBLICANS TOOK THE SENATE, AND I WORKED PRIMARILY ON AREAS OF CRIME IN INDIAN COUNTRY, HEALTH AND WELFARE, INDIAN GAMING, NATURAL RESOURCES. ANY AREA THAT TOUCHES ON INDIAN COUNTRY, YOU NAME IT. WE ALL HAD -- IT WAS ALL HANDS ON DECK, WE ALL HAD TO WORK ON THOSE ISSUES, WHATEVER CAME UP, IN ANY COMMITTEE IN THE SENATE. IF THEY WERE WORKING ON SOMETHING AND THERE WAS IMPACT ON INDIAN TRIBE THEN WE HAD TO FIGURE OUT WHAT THE IMPACT IS AND HOW THEY FIT IN, WHETHER OR NOT IT WAS GOOD OR BAD, PROPOSED LEGISLATIVE AMENDMENTS TO REAUTHORIZATIONS AND THOSE SORTS OF THINGS. IT WAS REALLY A WIDE VARIETY OF AREAS I WORKED ON.

JOSE CARDENAS: AND BASED ON THOSE EXPERIENCES WORKING WITH HIM AND THINGS YOU OBSERVED IN THE YEARS SINCE YOU LEFT WASHINGTON, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY WERE HIS SIGNATURE ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN THE AREA OF TRIBAL AFFAIRS?

DIANE HUMETEWA: I THINK THERE ARE SO MANY. I WAS REFLECTING BACK ON SOME OF THE WORK THEY DID AND SOME OF THE WORK HE CONTINUED TO DO UP UNTIL THE POINT THAT HE LEFT THE COMMITTEE. ONE OF THE EARLIER PIECES OF LEGISLATION I WORKED ON WAS A MANDATORY REPORTING OF CHILD ABUSE IN INDIAN COUNTRY. THAT AROSE OUT OF A NUMBER OF INCIDENTS OF CHILD ABUSE THAT WENT UNREPORTED, THAT WERE DISCOVERED LATE AFTER THEY HAD OCCURRED, AND SO HE HELD A NUMBER OF HEARINGS IN THE FIELD AND IN WASHINGTON, D.C. WE DEVELOPED, AND HE WROTE PRIMARILY THE INDIAN CHILD PROTECTION AND FAMILY VIOLENCE PREVENTION ACT WHICH WAS NOT ONLY TO REQUIRE THE REPORTING OF SUSPECTED INDIAN CHILD ABUSE, BUT TO PROVIDE RESOURCES FOR COUNSELING, PREVENTION, EDUCATION, THAT SORT OF THING, AND THEN ON THE OTHER SIDE, HE WORKED TIRELESSLY ON THE INDIAN GAMING REGULATORY ACT AFTER THE SUPREME COURT'S CABAZON DECISION. THAT TOOK A LOT OF ENERGY. HE HAD TO WORK WITH THE STATE. STATE GOVERNORS, TRIBAL LEADERS. THEY WERE NOT ALIGNED BY ANY MEANS, AND HE HAD TO BRING ALL OF THOSE INTERESTS TOGETHER ALONG WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT AND HAMMER OUT A LEGISLATION THAT SOME WOULD SAY IS A COMPROMISE LEGISLATION BUT SOMETHING THAT REGULATED INDIAN GAMING, SUCH THAT THE FUNDS OF GAMING WENT TO TRIBES AND TRIBAL PROGRAMS. ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN, WORKED ON INDIAN HEALTH CARE, THE INDIAN HEALTH CARE IMPROVEMENT ACT AND TRYING TO MAKE SURE THAT THE INDIAN HEALTH SERVICE MET ITS OBLIGATIONS, BOTH TREATY AND RESPONSIBILITY TO BE SURE TRIBAL MEMBERS WERE GIVEN ADEQUATE HEALTH. SORT OF PARALLEL ALONG THE LINES OF THE VA IN TERMS OF VETERANS. I MEAN JUST VERY, YOU KNOW, SIGNIFICANT YET REALLY, I THINK, UNCELEBRATED PIECES OF LEGISLATION HE WORKED ON.

JOSE CARDENAS: WE HAD OCCASION TO TALK TO PRESIDENT RUSSELL BEGAY OF THE NAVAJO NATION WHO MADE IT VERY CLEAR HIS RESPECT FOR THE SENATOR AND THE LOSS HIS PASSING MEANS NOT ONLY TO THE STATE BUT TO THE TRIBES, BUT DID SAY THERE WAS A COMPLICATED RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE SENATOR AND THE TRIBES AND ONE OF BIG ISSUES BEING THE NAVAJO HOPI RELOCATION ACT. WHAT'S YOUR SENSE OF THE KIND OF NEGATIVE ASPECTS OR THE MORE DIFFICULT ASPECTS OF THE SENATOR'S RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE TRIBES?

DIANE HUMETEWA: WELL, IN MY OBSERVATION, HE SORT OF WOULD BE IN MANY WAYS THE GATEKEEPER TO PREVENT THINGS THAT COULD HARM INDIAN NATIONS, AND ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN, WHEN YOU HAVE TRIBAL LEADERS FROM THROUGHOUT THE NATION COMING TO HIM TO ASK FOR HIS ASSISTANCE IN GETTING PIECES OF LEGISLATION THROUGH, OR TRYING TO GET RID OF SOME OF THE BUREAUCRACY THEY WOULD HAVE TO WORK THROUGH, HE WOULD HAVE TO BE THE TRUTH SPEAKER, AND HE WOULD HAVE TO TELL THEM, YOU KNOW, YOU CAN'T GET THIS DONE IN THIS WAY IN THIS TIME. HERE'S WHAT WE CAN DO. AND HE WOULD OFTEN HAVE TO BE THE BEARER OF BAD NEWS, AND AT THE SAME TIME, HE WOULD BE WORKING ON VERY POSITIVE THINGS, AND SO IT WAS SORT OF THIS GIVE AND TAKE RELATIONSHIP, BUT IT WAS ONE THAT I THINK THEY HAD MUTUAL RESPECT, AND IN THE END, IT TOOK MANY, MANY YEARS FOR MANY TRIBES, TRIBAL LEADERS, SOME OF THEM, YOU KNOW, 10+ YEARS TO BUILD TRUST AND CONFIDENCE, BUT I THINK THE ONE THING THEY ALWAYS ADMIRED ABOUT HIM IS HE WAS ABLE TO TELL THEM THE TRUTH, AND TO SPEAK TO THE TRIBES VERY CANDIDLY, AND THEY KNEW WHAT HE SAID THEY COULD RELY ON, AND SO SOMETIMES HE HAD TO SAY NO, AND I THINK THAT MADE IT, FOR A LITTLE BIT OF A TENSE RELATIONSHIP AT TIMES, BUT OVERALL IT WAS A -- PRIMARILY ONE OF VERY HEALTHY RESPECT AND ADMIRATION FOR ONE ANOTHER.

JOSE CARDENAS: AND SPEAKING OF GOOD NEWS, IN YOUR OWN CASE, HE SUPPORTED YOUR APPOINTMENT AS U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA, AND YOUR APPOINTMENT AS A U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE, THE ROLE YOU CURRENTLY FULFILL. YOU MAINTAIN THE RELATIONSHIP AFTER YOU LEFT HIS OFFICE.

DIANE HUMETEWA: I DID. ONE OF MY FELLOW PALLBEARERS PUT IT SO WELL YESTERDAY, WHEN HE SAID, IT'S LIKE HOTEL CALIFORNIA, ALTHOUGH IT'S HOTEL McCAIN. YOU CAN CHECK IN BUT YOU CAN NEVER LEAVE. EVEN WHEN I WAS WORKING IN THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT AS AN ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, I WOULD RUN INTO HIM EITHER IN WASHINGTON, D.C. OR HERE IN THE STATE AT SOME FUNCTION OR EVEN AT A HEARING, AND HE WOULD ALWAYS COME UP TO ME AND SAY NOW YOU GOT TO DO THIS, YOU GOT TO WORK ON THAT, DIANE, YOU GOT TO DO THIS. AND NEVER DARE TO SAY I DON'T WORK FOR YOU ANYMORE, SENATOR, BUT I WOULD ALWAYS SAY SOMETHING TO THE EFFECT, WELL, I'LL MAKE SURE OUR OFFICE WORKS WITH YOUR STAFF ON THAT. OKAY, LET'S GET IT DONE. HE'D SAY. YOU ALWAYS GOT THE SENSE THAT HE FELT THAT YOU WERE IN THE FOLD.

JOSE CARDENAS: YOU WERE PART OF THE TEAM.

DIANE HUMETEWA: YOU WERE PART OF THE TEAM.

JOSE CARDENAS: THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SHARING THAT PERSONAL ANECDOTE AND FOR THE OTHER REMINISCENSE, THANK YOU FOR JOINING US ON "ARIZONA HORIZON" TODAY.

DIANE HUMETEWA: YOU BET.

JOSE CARDENAS: AS WE MENTIONED, PEOPLE LINED THE STREETS OF PHOENIX AS THE MOTORCADE CARRYING THE SENATOR'S CASKET TRAVELED FROM THE STATE CAPITOL TO THE NORTH PHOENIX BAPTIST CHURCH, CRONKITE NEWS REPORTER BRYCE NEWBERRY WAS ON THE PROCESSION ROUTE AND TALKED TO PEOPLE SAYING THEIR FINAL GOOD-BYE

U.S. District Court Judge Diane Humetewa

Illustration of columns of a capitol building with text reading: Arizona PBS AZ Votes 2024

Arizona PBS presents candidate debates

Super Why characters

Join a Super Why Reading Camp to play, learn and grow

Three main characters from mystery shows premiering this summer
June 16

It’s the Summer of Mystery!

Charlotte Heywood from Sanditon
airs June 23

Sanditon on Masterpiece

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch
with azpbs.org!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: