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The People's Gathering in Lehi Keeps Piipaash Traditions Alive

Councilwoman Jenelle Howard cuts the ribbon with the Red Mountain Eagle Pow-wow Princess Kennise McGertt.

Even though it was held on April 1, the Piipaash Matasheevm, or the People’s Gathering, was no joke this year. A record crowd gathered at the Lehi festival grounds in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, under the newly built mathkyaaly (ramada) covered with ‘iisav or arrow weed, for a day of chiyer (bird) singing and dancing.

“This is beautiful. This is a beautiful place. I’ve been to many places and there are none like this,” said SRPMIC President Delbert Ray, Sr., who complimented the ramada. “I just really want to thank everyone that has come here today just to be a part of this.”

For many years, Community members Earl and Carolyn Stacey of Lehi, along with other key elders from the Community, hosted the Spiritual Gathering of the Gourds. That event eventually became the Piipaash Matasheevm Gathering, which has been held every year since 1999.

The all-day celebration began at about 10 a.m. with the blessing of gourds, posting of the colors, and a welcome and blessing. Community member Bob Aguilar explained the history of the Piipaash Matasheevm for visitors shortly before an arbor ribbon-cutting. At about 11 a.m., a potluck-style lunch was served, and at noon the singing and dancing began.

“Today’s event was also a way to honor our senior citizens and veterans,” said Aguilar.

At the gathering, Community seniors Grinelda Gates and Clara Carlos were honored and veterans Damon Andreas, Gene Juan and Meagan Charlie were recognized. After the seniors and veterans were acknowledged, the event continued with more chiyer singing and dancing into the night.

Most of the Piipaash and their sister tribes have bird songs and dances that keep the cultures alive and prosperous. The movements and actions of the dancers tell a story. Visitors from the following sister tribes attended the gathering: Yavapai, Hualapai, Havasupai, Paipai, Quechan, Mohave, Cocopah, Kumeyaay and Kiliwa.

For more information about the Piipaash Matasheevm, email piipaashmatasheevmlehi@gmail.com.

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