The typical Small Town in Arizona can be a sleepy place. Dust Devils rake the land and the dust brings a tear to your eye! Almost always the rule except on that one day or weekend when a whole community comes together and celebrates with each other, over who they are and why they live together as a community. In many places, locals celebrate history but in Arizona where there are 21 federally recognized American Indian tribes and almost 250,000 American Indians living on their reservations, Small Town Arizona is often the Capitol of a sovereign nation, places like Sells, San Carlos, Sacaton, White River, Peach Springs and Window Rock, represent the Tohono Oodham, San Carlos Apache, Gila River Indian Communities, White Mountain Apache, Hualapai and Navajo Tribes; each celebrates their own special weekend with fairs, rodeos, dancing, music, eating and pow wows, it brings everyone out to party.
I find this is a great time to visit the reservation with my camera because all the action is concentrated in one place for two or three days and pictures come fast and furious. I recently spent a Saturday afternoon at the 74th Tohono O’odham Nation’s Rodeo and Fair, this nation’s biggest annual event and Arizona’s longest running All-Indian Rodeo. The Junior Wild Horse Stampede and Junior Rodeos offers a younger level of competition that fosters the cowboy lifestyle which ushers in the difference between the Tucson Rodeo and the Sells Rodeo, it’s all Indian, most competitors are from Arizona tribes from all over Arizona, some events might not fill, this year there were three bareback entries and one saddle bronc and rodeo slack is filled with team roping which is the big pastime here on the Sells Reservation, second largest reservation in the U.S. and historically it straddles the U.S.-Mexico Border.
While there may be fewer competitors in some events, the first two bareback riders at Saturday’s performance were hospitalized. Picked up and carted off in an ambulance. Action you don’t normally see at the big events, Indian Rodeo competitors, don’t get bogged down with all the rules, regulations. They frequently hammer their gloved hand, locking it onto the beast they have drawn to ride. Since their hand can’t come loose, and if they keep their feet beneath them they have a shot at the money. In both cases Saturday, their feet flew out beneath them and they were beaten badly.
Early Saturday, there had been a parade with floats and grand marshals, and marching school kids. (the whole event is accessed from one parking lot and one entry fee, $5 general admission, $2 seniors (55 and over)
After I left the rodeo I dropped by the traditional dancing being lead by the Maricopa Dance and Sing Group, “Bird Singing by the River”, for a Piman Tribe and Tohono Oodham cousin whose roots live along the Salt River. Their dance was most frequently sung at wakes, it was the Maricopa Creator Tale and allowed participants a glimpse into a tribal tradition not often seen in public.
Moving on I visited the Toka Tournament where a dozen teams had come together for an afternoon of Toka, a Tohono O’odham traditional game only for women which is a cross between lacrosse and hockey without the ice. Each team of eleven face off until the leather wood puck is dropped and like hockey, the action begins. Men are not allowed on the Toka field and traditionally, each match would be wagered on by the teams, today that might be Gatorade or a shell necklace. Next I toured the mid-way, over 14,000 Tohono O’odham are registered tribal members, three or four thousand where there enjoying the carnival rides, cotton candy and slurpies.
The photo booth is a big draw for moms wanting a baby picture of junior while he is still so cute. That changes fast, for many years I noticed the Goth movement had a huge foot hold on many reservations and specifically the Tohono O’odham, waves of black tee shirts, tribal signs and skulls. That seems to be passing, everything was extremely bright and colorful and great days for digital photography. I noticed a handful of old white guys, with expensive camera gear, hanging on the edges working with long lenses keeping a low profile.
I dropped back by the traditional dancers and I found a real treat, the San Carlos Apache Crown Dancers were entertaining and the Clown took a pretty Tohono prisoner and forced her to dance with him. Finally I headed across the parking lot to the Pow Wow area, where the drums were competing for the top tier, and pow wow dancers from many walks of life, including ring dancers, gourd dancers from both the plains tribe and northern nations. The sun was starting to get lower now and I was able to get some back-lighting on the amazing feather displays found on these families of competitors who follow the Pow Wow circuit much like the Rodeo competitors, both of which find themselves on the All-Indian Rodeo Circuit.
FOR MORE PHOTOGRAPHS FROM THE 2012 SELLS COMPETITION CLICK HERE
TRIBAL RODEOS AND FAIRS
MUL-CHA-THA for the Gila River Indian Community March 16-18th 2012
Community gathering very much like the Sells Fair and Rodeo, however, the Piman Tribe has a very strong “Chicken Scratch” bent and numerous CS bands will compete there for the title.
CLICK HERE FOR SLIDESHOW FROM PREVIOUS YEAR
One unique Day is the IRA HAYES PARADE held in Sacaton, AZ on February 25th at 8:30 am with a jet flyovers
The IRA HAYES IWO JIMA MEMORIAL PARADE held the third week of February each year. Ira was one of the five flag raisers on the Japanese Island of Iwo Jima where the Marine took the island. Tribes send color guards and participants every year and this is the biggest patriotic event in the state each year where veterans turn out each year to appreciated as warriors.
CLICK HERE FOR A SLIDESHOW FROM A PREVIOUS YEAR.
CASA GRANDE INDIAN DAYS RODEO
Casa Grande, AZ
February 17-19, 2012
Performances: 2/18/2012; 2/19/2012 1:00 pm daily
Slack 2/17/2012 10:00 am
O’ODHAM TASH ALL INDIAN RODEO
March 2-4 2012
11/17/2011-11/20/2011 Orme Dam Victory Days (INFR Tour) Fort McDowell
12/03/2011 Parker All Indian Rodeo Parker, AZ
2/17/2012-2/19/2012 Cowboy Indian Days All Indian Rodeo Casa Grande, AZ
3/02/2012-3/04/2012 O’odham Tash All Indian Rodeo Florence, AZ
3/31/2012 Mt. Turnbull All Indian Rodeo Bylas, AZ
4/01/2012 Mt. Turnbull All Indian Rodeo Bylas, AZ
10/06/2012-10/07/2012 SWIRA Regional Finals (Tentative) Parker, AZ
44th Annual Western Navajo Fair
October 11-14, 2012 To’Nanees’Dizi Dine’ Fair” enjoy Inter-tribal dances, Carnival, All Indian Open Rodeo, Parade, Pageantry, Youth concerts, Elderly activities, Concessions, the popular Yeii bi cheii Ceremony, Arts and Crafts.Contact: Phone: 928-283-3415 http://www.DineFair.com
66th Annual Navajo Nation Fair
September 2nd – 9th, 2012
Window Rock, AZ
The Navajo Nation Fair was established in 1938 to stimulate livestock improvements and management through exhibits for the Navajo people. The Navajo Nation Fair has become a world-renowned event that showcases Navajo Agriculture, Fine Arts and Crafts, with the promotion and preservation of the Navajo heritage by providing cultural entertainment.For more information please visit the website: www.NavajoNationFair.com
9th Annual Page Lake Powell Hot Air Balloon Regatta November 2-4, 2012 Contact: Page Tourism Bureau Phone: 928-645-2741 www.PageLakePowellTourism.com Watch balloons lift off and float over the Lake Powell area, also a Balloon Glow and Street Fair.
PERIDOT Plans are underway for the San Carlos Apache Tribe’s 46th Annual Veteran’s Fair; Rodeo to be held at the Peridot Rodeo grounds in Peridot, Ariz. Nov. 11-14, 2012 are the scheduled dates for the annual honoring of veterans on the San Carlos Apache reservation.
2012 Native American Feast Days and Events in New Mexico
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