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Problems Faced by Arizona and Its Inhabitants

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Arizona’s history is long and complex, even before statehood. This paper will address Arizona’s illustrious cultural, social, and political history. Beginning with a look into Arizona’s ancient history to see where our nation’s first people came from and where they stand on a more modern political platform in their tribal governments. Then into Arizona’s political branches, followed by local and county governments, and lastly Arizona’s modern constitutional controversies.

In 2018, Arizona is facing many problems. With all of these it can be easy to forget the richness of Arizona’s history, and the fact that many modern problems can be traced back to thousands of years ago. Many archeologists have long believed that the first people to occupy North Americans were those who crossed the Beringia, a massive land bridge created during the last ice age. According to the Clovis-first theory, once these travelers set foot in North America they spread out across the continent, including Arizona (Sheriden, 12). They lived prosperously for centuries then the Spanish came. In addition to new diseases, many of these native peoples faced both physical violence and political violence too. In response to their intrusion many Native Americans fought back. In 1786, Viceroy Bernardo de Gálvez ordered his troops in Arizona (he was in New Mexico) to bride Natives who agreed to stop fighting with “defective firearms, string liquor, and such other commodities as would render them militarily and economically dependent on the Spaniards,” (Sheriden, 48). This was just one of the many atrocities the Native people of Arizona, and around the country, faced. The U.S. Government, since the Revolutionary War, had negotiated on behalf of the Native Americans, however they were not American citizens (Krutz, 177). They had little/no representation for themselves and were forced to cope with numerous brutalities and culture erasure.

In 1821, Mexico won their independence from Spain. But this independence would not last long. The United States waged war against Mexico in May 1846, primarily because of the Mexican government’s unwillingness to part with California and New Mexico territories (Sheriden, 60). Thomas Sheriden states, “Arizona was never a prize in the conflict. On the contrary, most Anglo pioneers and politicians considered it a wasteland, a desert, an Indian-infested obstacle between Santa Fe and San Diego. Several US military expeditions passed through the area on their way west, but they did so as quickly as possible, and none of them stayed,” (Sheriden, 60). Despite this, the U.S. received much of the modern Arizonan land (North of the Gila River) with the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo (Leshy, 7,8). The U.S. accepted with the intent that, “Mexican-American inhabitants of the newly acquired lands ‘shall be incorporated into the Union of the United States, and be admitted at the proper time (to be judged by the Congress of the United States) to the enjoyment of all the rights of citizens of the United States,’” (Moussalli, 10). In the 1950’s, Mexican Arizona faced violence from gold-hungry 49ers, Apache Indian raids, and cholera epidemics (Sheriden, 65). On June 29, 1854, U.S. Congress ratified the Gadsden Purchase and the rest of Arizona became U.S. territory (Sheriden, 65).

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s Anglos were the predominant (voting) population in Arizona. The arrival of railroads and better transportation allowed more workers into Arizona to work in the territory’s thriving mines. In 1870, Arizona’s population was 10,000 by 1890 the population blossomed to 88,000 and by 1930 had 436,000 people (Moussalli, 29). Additionally, Anglos during this period were democratic, overpowering the mostly republican Mexican population. Further, in 1909 Arizona democrats passed a, “Voter qualification law…that was intended to disenfranchise Spanish speakers and thereby reduce Republican opposition,” (Moussalli, 30).

One of the major reasons that some Arizonans objected to statehood was for financial reasons. Moussalli explains, “The powerful railroads and mining companies feared that statehood would bring them a high tax burden,” (Moussalli, 30). Interestingly, Arizona’s statehood was talked about by an, “Evanescent coalition of populists, progressives, and labor leaders,” who realized that their goal of organized labor and tax laws could never be realized until they were a state (Sheriden, 181). The majorly democratic Arizona frightened Republicans in Senate, not wanting them to send their democratic representatives. To keep both Arizona and Senate happy Indiana Senator Albert J. Beveridge suggested that a new state be created. This new state combined Arizona and New Mexico, the later had a greater republican, Hispanic population that would ensure Republicans stayed in power. However, Arizona’s voters decided that this would not do, because of racism and ideology, and voted to reject this plan (Sheriden, 181). William Howard Taft eventually signed the Enabling Act allowing New Mexico and Arizona to join the Union separately on June 20, 1910 (Sheriden, 182).

Shortly after the Enabling Act was signed the Arizona Governor Richard E. Sloan began to plan for their constitutional convention. An election was run to vote for the fifty-two delegates that would become the framers of the Arizona constitution (Sheriden, 182). When the Enabling Act was signed Arizona and New Mexico agreed to send their prospective constitutions to Congress and the president before admission (Leshy, 10). Despite warnings from Republicans that a too progressive constitution would be rejected, forty-one of fifty-two delegates were democrats, largely progressive (Sheriden, 182). They discussed many issues including, “An eight-hour workday, employer’s liability, workmen’s compensation, the abolition of child-labor, and an anti-injection law” (Sheriden, 182). Other topics included, “Religious freedom, polygamy, English literacy, racial discrimination in voting, state jurisdiction over Indian affairs and Indian lands, federal water projects, assumption of territorial debts, location of the capital, public schools, and management of lands granted by the federal government to the new state,” (Leshy, 11) However, they also suggested many racist propositions that would forbid Mexican laborers from working in mines or on state projects because they believed, without empirical evidence, that workers who could not speak English was a danger to all, the worst was Proposition 91. After two years of deliberation Arizona was admitted into the Union on February 14, 1912 (Sheriden, 182-185). Arizona still functions under this original constitution, with the exception of 118 amendments to its charter (Leshy, 7).

Article III of the Arizona Constitution states: “The powers of the government of the State of Arizona shall be divided into three separate departments, the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judicial; and, except as provided in this Constitution, such departments shall be separate and distinct, and no one of such departments shall exercise the powers properly belonging to either of the others,” (Leshy, 105). Just like our national Constitution Arizona delegates believed in the separation of powers.

Article IV discusses the Legislative branch of the Arizona government. Arizona’s legislature, a Senate and House of Representatives, is a bicameral legislature. The legislature lasts two years and always includes two regular sessions (one for each year in a term). These regular sessions, “Commence on the second Monday of January of each year,” (Leshy, 133). Any bill that is proposed by the legislature must undergo three separate readings; after the last reading the legislature will vote on its passing or not. The bill, unamended, must pass through both the Senate and the House before it can be sent to the Governor for ratification (Leshy,137). According to Leshy, “The public policy of the state is entirely in the hands of the legislature, except as restrained by the Constitution,” (Leshy, 114). Arizona also made sure to incorporate the powers of Initiatives and Referendums. Initiatives, in Arizona, must be approved by 10 percent of voters to propose a movement and 15 percent to propose an amendment to the Constitution (Leshy, 115). A referendum gives Arizona voters the power to, “Suspend or annul a law which has not gone into effect,” (Leshy, 116). Five percent of voters must agree to propose a referendum (Leshy, 116).

Arizona’s executive branch includes a, “governor, secretary of state, state treasurer, attorney general, and superintendent of public instruction,” (Leshy, 149). These seats can be held for four years with a two-term limit. Other officers with executive powers include a state mine inspector, corporation committee, and the state board of education and board of regents of the university (Leshy, 150). The governor of Arizona also serves as its commander in chief of Arizona military forces and can give pardons (as long as the crime is not treason or impeachment). Essentially, the executive branch, and particularly the Governor, is in charge of executing policies created by the legislature (Leshy, 151 & 152).

Arizona’s judicial branch has three levels: first, justice and municipal courts that work within a limited jurisdiction, second, the Superior Court of Arizona that hear cases all over Arizona and work with a great breadth of cases, and lastly, the state appellate courts that work with appeals, mostly from the superior court ( There is also Arizona’s Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is the highest judicial authority in Arizona. There are seven Justices on the supreme court who serve terms of six years (Leshy, 168). A chief justice is selected by their fellow justices and serves for five years (Leshy, 167).

Article 12 of the Arizona Constitution lays out the organization of County governments. Article 12, section 3 states that county officers are, “a sheriff, a county attorney, a recorder, a treasurer, an assessor, a superintendent of schools and at least three supervisors,” (Leshy, 290). Each of these officers hold their seats for four years. (Leshy, 290). Leshy writes that the biggest difference between counties and municipal organizations are that, “Municipalities are ‘voluntary corporations’ organized by local residents for ‘special and local purpose… independent of the general governmental activities of the state,’ while counties are ‘created by the legislature regardless of the wishes of the inhabitants,’” (Leshy, 289). Essentially, county governments are held up to the same laws and standards as everyone else and can only be given power by the state legislature. The Arizona legislature also has the power to change or abolish counties. Because the counties have their legislative powers given to them strictly by the state two counties fought back to be able to create charters. Maricopa and Pima county are the two counties with large enough populations (500,000) to create a charter and bypass the state’s authority to a certain extent (Leshy, 289-296). Local/city governments, or municipalities, are also created by the state but are different than county governments. Municipalities with a population exceeding 3,500 citizens can also attempt to form and vote for a charter to create their own home laws so they do not need to follow the state legislature so strictly (Leshy, 301).

Tribal governments in Arizona have faced many setbacks. Even though many Native Americans become citizens through the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act many states did not want those living on reservations to vote. The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 attempted to right some of the wrongs that the U.S. government had done. The act, “ended the division of reservation land into allotments…returned to Native American tribes the right to institute self-government on their reservations, write constitutions, and manage their remaining land and resources. It also provided funds for Native Americans to start their own businesses and attain a college education,” (Krutz, 179). However, many Native Americans in Arizona did not want to participate in a simulation of the U.S. governmental process. To many Hopis they never agreed to many of the treaties they were forced into and fought against Hopi authorities (Sheriden, 319). The Indian Reorganization Act allowed tribes to write their own constitutions and attempt to become more sovereign and independent. However, many tribes, not just in Arizona, struggle between maintaining their cultural heritage and becoming members of 21st century culture. Many face problems still with unemployment/underemployment and federal/Anglo interference despite their tribal governments and “sovereignty” (Sheriden, 319-324).

One of Arizona’s most controversial policies usually has something to do with immigration. Because our state is so close to the Mexican border we have first-hand experience with the issues of the immigration system. In 2010, Arizona governor Jan Brewer passes Senate Bill (SB) 1070. SB 1070 allowed law enforcement to force anyone detained to show proof that they are in the country legally based on “reasonable cause.” This lead for many, across the country, to portray this “cause,” as racial profiling (Arizona Firestorm, 10). Although it has been amended since its implementation to be softer this is just another brick in the wall of Arizona’s racist political policies/leanings.

A study done on Arizona’s regulatory abortion policy says, “Abortion is a common and safe procedure in the United States,” (Williams, et al.) In 2011, two bills were passed A.R.S 36-2153 and 36-2155. These created regulations for abortion procedures that included having the mother visit the abortion clinic two times before the procedure, meet with an abortion counselor it also prohibited the use of mifepristone, a pill that induces abortion. After the laws went into place abortion clinics in Arizona decreased as well as abortions. However, the researchers say that this does not increase the safety of abortions but restricts access for women who will travel to a different state with less stringent regulations to obtain an abortion (Williams, et al.).

In conclusion, Arizona’s state and political history is rich. Our population is diverse and come from many historically distinctive backgrounds mingling with each other. Our state has many Native Americans, Mexican-Americans, and Anglo-Americans who have all impacted the way our legislature is/was designed. Although our political branches mirror the U.S.’s federal policies our state’s early progressive history has allowed each of the branches, but particularly the legislative branch, a unique set of powers. Through the Indian Reorganization Act our state’s many tribes have written their own constitutions and continue to fight for their rights as independent sovereign nations. Our more modern battles include human rights, immigration reform, and abortion regulations.

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