Honoring tradition: All-Indian rodeo brings together tribes for riding and dancing
WHITERIVER – Each summer since 1925, Native people have gathered in the capital of the Fort Apache Tribe to test their skills in the saddle and celebrate who they are.
The 93rd annual White Mountain Apache Tribal Fair & Rodeo, held over Labor Day weekend, included sports competitions, a car show, a parade and an all-Indian rodeo that attracted dozens of men and women chasing prizes ranging from belt buckles to cash to a horse trailer.
After the rodeo, trucks and cars replaced horses and bulls in the corral. Members of various tribes began meticulous, hours-long process of getting into traditional makeup and dress for a cross-tribal dance performance.
The dancers this year included group from the University of Arizona Tohono O’odham Student Association, a mixed group of Zuni, Hopi, Navajo, Kiowa, Paiute and Gila River Pima people. But not all the dancers were from Arizona. Several families are Purépecha, an indigenous people originally from the southern Mexican state Michoacán, who made the long drive to Whiteriver.
As the dancers lined up to enter the arena together, they joked, talked and took photos of each other with their phones. Once everyone was assembled, the groups simultaneously performed their traditional dances in a large circle.