Athletes Gather for Lori Piestewa Games Opening Ceremony
The Lori Piestewa National Native American Games kicked off with the opening ceremony on Friday, July 21, at Cicero Preparatory Academy in Scottsdale. The event welcomed hundreds of Native athletes and their families, who mingled among informational booths and vendors and registered for their sporting events. They were also treated to the entertainment of wadaiko drumming, a form of traditional Japanese drumming.
The American Legion Post 114 Color Guard posted the colors, and Angelica Gonzales, Miss Salt River 2nd Attendant, sang the national anthem.
Many guest speakers took the stage to speak about the importance of the games and to remember Lori Piestewa. A member of the Hopi tribe, Piestewa was killed in combat in 2003 while serving as a U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps soldier in Iraq. She was the first Native American woman in U.S. history to die in combat. Before joining the army, Piestewa was an athlete and grew up playing sports, with softball being her favorite.
Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Council member Archie Kashoya welcomed guests and said, “This is an annual event that highlights many sports activities that are a positive influence for tribal athletes and that bring tribal nations together for good competition and sportsmanship.”
The Piestewa Games included six sports this year: softball, basketball, baseball, cross country, wrestling and volleyball. Athletes traveled to athletic complexes in Scottsdale, Tempe and other areas to compete in the various sports. There were more than 3,800 Native American athletes participating in the games this year.
“Lori Piestewa, who gave the ultimate sacrifice—we pay tribute to her though these games, because she too grew up knowing how sports bring families together,” said Kashoya.
Percy Piestewa, Lori’s mother, also had a chance to speak and thank the participants, parents, volunteers and sponsors for their dedication and time.
“I want to wish every one of your teams good luck, and please remember that good sportsmanship will always prevail.”
The event included door prizes and a free hot-dog meal.