How fortunate we are in Arizona to have a vital, living culture to explore right on our doorstep. Native American tribal communities around the state enrich our lives with their colorful festivals while sharing their heritage, beliefs, beautiful crafts, songs and dances, delicious foods, and a whole lot of fun.
Here is a sampling of the events coming up in February and March.
13th annual Intertribal Pow Wow
The San Carlos Apache Tribe will have its 13th annual Intertribal Pow Wow on March 13-15 at Apache Gold Casino Resort. The Pow Wow is a first nation gathering focusing on dance, song and family celebration. Traditionally, it is presented by one tribe or band to welcome, honor, respect and show generosity toward another.
It is interesting to learn about the drums and the dances. There are two types of drums, Northern and Southern. These refer to styles rather than location, and each has its own protocol. The grand entry parade of dancers leads off each session of the Pow Wow. Grand entries will be at 7 p.m. March 13; noon and 7 p.m. March 14; and noon March 15.
Apache Gold Casino Resort is located on the San Carlos Apache Reservation, 5 miles east of Globe on Hwy 70.
Mul-Chu-Tha Fair and Rodeo
The 47th annual Mul-Chu-Tha Fair and Rodeo will be held March 19-22 in Sacaton.
This huge event encompasses a powwow, rodeo, parade, entertainment, cultural demonstrations, a barbecue, carnival, chicken scratch music and sporting events.
The Gila River Indian Community has a long history that dates back to the ancient HuHuKam, who first farmed the area around 300 B.C. Following in their footsteps were the Akimel O’odham (Pima tribe) and the Pee Posh (Maricopa), who now reside on the 372,000 acres of the community.
The Mul-Chu-Tha Fair and Rodeo was established in 1962 from a desire to have positive events for the community’s young people and to promote community spirit.
“Mul-Chu-Tha” means footraces in Pima, an activity that the tribe used to have for entertainment or to share news. At the very first fair, footraces were held as well as the traditional O’odham game of “toka,” which is similar to lacrosse. The Mul-Chu-Tha has become one of the most recognized tribal fairs in Indian country.
The Mul-Chu-Tha fair grounds are located in Sacaton. Take Exit 175 from Interstate 10.
Southwest Indian Art Fair
Southern Arizona’s premier Indian art show and market takes place on Feb. 21-22 at the Arizona State Museum in Tucson. Whether you are a serious collector, casual buyer, or first-time visitor to the world of Indian art, you will find much to learn and enjoy.
Gathered together in this one place are 200 of the finest artists in the region. No need to travel to seek out fine jewelry, pottery or kachinas. Making it even more exciting is the opportunity to chat with the artists and watch demonstrations. The featured artist for this 15th annual event is Julius Keyonnie, a Navajo designer of contemporary jewelry.
Take a break from shopping to sample Indian foods and enjoy live performances by groups such as Southern Scratch, an award-winning waila group, No:ligk Traditional Dancers from the Tohono O’odham Nation, and Bird Singing and Dancing by the River from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
The Arizona State Museum is located on the University of Arizona campus, 1013 E. University Blvd. Show hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 21 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 22.
Casa Grande Indian Days
“Gathering of the People” at Casa Grande Indian Days, also known as the O’odham Tash, is another megafestival you won’t want to miss for four days, Friday through Feb. 16. It is packed full of events: an all-Indian rodeo, rodeo queen contest, powwow, carnival and softball and basketball tournaments. The parade takes place at 9 a.m. Saturday. There will be somewhere between 75 and 100 entries with equestrians, bands, floats and lots more. Live Native American bands and commercial and food vendors.
The O’odham Tash began in 1967 when the town of Casa Grande held a barbecue for their Native American neighbors — the Tohono O’odham Nation, Ak-Chin, Gila River, and Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian communities. The tradition continued and grew into the multifaceted event of today.
Profits from the event fund scholarships and achievement awards to Native American students.
Hop in the car, drive over and have some fun!