10 Minutes with Tipton originated in January 2022 on the Education Page. Students in the After School Education and Safety (ASES) Program at Tipton Elementary School take time to Zoom with individuals in the community to ask them questions about their jobs, lives and strategies they can use in their own lives to help them become college and career ready.
William Garfield, Tribal Council Member for the Tule River Indian Reservation
What is your job title/role in our community?
“Right now I am sitting on the tribal council, and I am a former chairman of the tribe. The tribal council is the elected body of the tribe. We handle the governmental functions, contracts, and more of the major stuff that happens on the reservation, such as when we are running out of water when we have wildfires or dealing with any type of crisis or disaster. We coordinate with different agencies to coordinate funding that will benefit the tribe.”
Please tell us a little bit about yourself — Your background, where you grew up, your family.
“I was born and raised here on the reservation. I enjoy hunting and fishing. I play golf and we visit a lot of the national parks. My favorite national park is Yosemite, but I’ve been to Yellowstone, Bryce Canyon, and Zion. A lot of them are really nice, but Yosemite is really nice probably my favorite because I grew up here in the Valley. You see the giant rocks and the Sequoias and I’m familiar with a lot of things that happen there. Zion is probably my second favorite and that’s over in Utah, but even there are a few state parks that are local.
A pretty nice one is Pinnacles National Park. It’s nice to have lunch out there, see the California condors, and go hiking. It's a really nice place to be.
Overall, I just grew up here and I went to school myself and I’m trying to give back to the community.”
What do you love about your career and serving on the tribal council?
“I really like working with different people and learning about different cultures. I like the politics and the different meetings with state and federal officials to figure out what we can do to enhance the lives of the people on the reservation.
When did you begin your career? Can you provide us with a career history?
“In 1996 I began working at the casino. I worked several jobs and I worked there for about 16 years. From that point on, I got on with the tribal office and worked in public relations for the next several years before running for tribal council, so I have a long background in public relations. I did go to college right out of high school. I decided to go to Porterville College and I went for about 45 minutes and walked out. I didn’t return to college until I was 32 years old and I already had a family, so it was really tough to get an education, but I did get an A.A. from a junior college in Las Vegas and numerous certifications to help me get where I am now.”
What do you dislike about your career?
“The only thing I dislike is when we put in a lot of effort to help people and they don’t want to be helped. More of frustration than a dislike.”
What advice do you have for young people who might be pursuing your line of work?
“At this point in your life I think what I would say is just to stay in school and listen to what your parents have to say, what your grandparents have to say, or your aunts, uncles, or whoever your mentor is because one day you’re going to be in their shoes. You’re going to be teaching younger people the stuff you learned along the way to try and make life easy for you just as your parents do for you. Somebody once mentioned that you have to be a better descendant of your ancestors. Our elders have good teachings, and if we don’t follow them and if we have to do things on our own it doesn't turn out that well. Once you learn a little bit you can give back a little bit. I’m sure people are looking up to you at school. They want to do the things you are doing so you’ve got to help them out!
Always try to learn if it’s a positive experience or a negative experience. If it’s a negative experience, you learn not to do that again.”
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Hopefully, I’m retired sitting on the lake or some river fishing. Hopefully, I’m not having to work and make car payments and do all of that stuff you really have to work for.
Anything else you would like to add?
“Stay involved. It’s good that you're here after school right now. It shows you’re putting a lot of effort into your education. I’ve worked with one of the elementary schools here in town. I was just elected to sit on a board with them and discuss special events that benefit kids in that area. Just stick with it and try to provide services for your community. There are a lot of people who are looking at you. They want to be like you and they may not be ready, a little shy, or not as social, or they may be struggling.”
Can you tell us more about the Tule River Tribal Council and the new casino that is being built near Porterville?
“There are nine members on the tribal council — a chairman, spokesperson, or chief. There is a vice chair and a secretary. The secretary is the hardest working one because there is a lot that goes along with that position. There is a treasurer who handles the finances. There is the remaining council, who are the supporters, who make sure that the executive body gets the information to make decisions and keep moving forward. We’ve had men and women on the tribal council. Every position is a two-year term and they have the opportunity to be reelected by the community to vote us back in. This year, five people are up for election and next year there are four people up for reelection.
One of our current concerns is that people are running out of water on the reservation, so we have been passing out bottled water. We are hoping to get water storage. We are going to Washington D.C. for a water act settlement and to receive funding to build a fund to store water for the people on the reservation for the next 100 years.
At the end of May 1996, Eagle Mountain Casino opened in trailers. I started there in September 1996. My son, my first child was born then, so I knew it was time to get serious about life. I have had four children. Working at the casino, and working for the tribe helped me raise them, put them through school, and have a better life and now I have three grandchildren who are now benefiting from that as well.
The casino uses up to 45,000 gallons of water a day, so if we move the casino down to the property (near Porterville) we could add 80 homes to move more people back home. We currently have 1,950 tribal members. The hard part is water, climate change, rivers drying up and waiting until October runs around and it starts raining again.”
Genesis Mendoza and Isabella Franco are both seventh graders at Tipton Elementary School in the After School Education and Safety (ASES) Program. Genesis enjoys playing volleyball and cheerleading and Isabella enjoys drawing.