Cover Story

The Birds Singing and Dancing by the River performers intrigued visitors and guests at the Arizona Indian Festival on Thursday, January 29.

Sports Fans Experience the Tribes of Arizona Through Arizona Indian Festival

By Sheila Begay
Au-Authm Action News

As thousands of sports fans poured into the Valley for Super Bowl XLIX and its many associated events, the Arizona American Indian Tourism Association (AAITA) partnered with the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee and the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts to present the 2015 Arizona Indian Festival. This much-anticipated festival was held at the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall January 29-31.

Visitors were able to access the festival along North Drinkwater Boulevard in oldtown Scottsdale. Other events taking place in the general area were the Waste Management Phoenix Open and ESPN Fan Fest, and Scottsdale Fashion Square is right around the corner. The Arizona Indian Festival would fall right in the visitors’ path, and they were bound to see all the excitement taking place at the Scottsdale Civic Center. This location was a hotspot that helped to reel in about 10,000+ visitors over the course of three days, despite the rain. The Indian Festival was an opportunity for visitors to experience Arizona’s indigenous cultures and traditions. The state’s 22 Indian tribes were represented in the Indian Village, which showcased traditional dwellings, arts and crafts, and entertainment.

As one of Arizona’s 22 tribes, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community participated in the Indian Village display as part of the Desert Tribes area, which was set up at the east end of the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall. The Desert Tribes area included the SRPMIC and sister tribes Gila River Indian Community, Ak-Chin Indian Community and Tohono O’odham Nation.

Various SRPMIC departments and the Talking Stick Cultural and Entertainment Destination partnered to help promote the festival and educate visitors about the history and significance of the SRPMIC. A booth was set up to provide more information about the Talking Stick Cultural and Entertainment Destination, and a round house replica was on display. Community artisans, performers and demonstrators were on hand to demonstrate their work and answer any questions visitors had.

Community artisans who participated were Royce Manuel (bows and arrows), Jacob Butler (shell etching), Ron Carlos (pottery), Raina Thomas (beading), Kahneena Jones (basket weaving) and Delphia Graves (basket weaving). Dance performers were Birds Singing and Dancing by the River, Piipaash Singers (Kelly Washington and Ron Carlos), Bird Dancing by Miss Salt River Pretty Flower Galindo, and Bird Dancing by Miss Indian Arizona First Attendant Martha Ludlow-Martinez. Huhugam Ki Museum staff demonstrators (tortilla making) were Sharilyn Belone, Lolita Martinez and Candice Manuel. Community members came together with pride and admiration for their traditions and cultures. Visitors were able to enjoy fresh ce:mait (tortillas) and witness the beautiful women dressed in traditional O’odham attire. Community members proudly danced to chicken scratch music to give visitors a small taste of the SRPMIC.

When asked how the Arizona Indian Festival specifically benefited the Community, Donovan Hanley, President of AAITA, responded, “[The SRPMIC] played a big part. They had [the Talking Stick Festival] a week before this, and this is like a follow-up. They have been a big help with our labor, they are a sponsor of the event, and also [provided] entertainment here on the stage and [Indian Village] involvement; it’s a great follow-up. Face to face for [SRPMIC] will be very beneficial, because they get to talk about the [Talking Stick Cultural and Entertainment Destination], which is just next door. Anytime they can get this crowd and this audience, I think it’s better for them.”

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