Since 1997, Diné elder James Peshlakai and his family have provided culturally-appropriate and accurate Native presentations just south of the Grand Canyon in Tusayan. These events began with dances at the Grande Hotel and have grown into a Native American market including dances, music and artisans from throughout the country. To kick-off this summer long schedule of entertainment to accompany the market, the Memorial Day weekend festivities will feature a hand-drum contest, hand-drum open mike, Memorial Day Hand-Drummers' "Tribute to Fallen Warriors" drum session, and fry bread contest.
"We want to invite the whole group of Native American hand-drummers to come out and participate," Peshlakai said.
He explained that hand-drummers have been an integral part of Native music for generations, but have never received the same amount of recognition as that of dancers and singers.
"Now I'm paying attention to hand-drummers," he said.
The festival will begin at sun-up Saturday, May 26, and continue through sunset Monday, May 28.
The hand-drum contest will be held Saturday, May 26, as soon as all the drummers are gathered. Cash awards will be awarded to the top drummers, but even drummers who do not place will receive a small cash prize for participating, Peshlakai said. These entertainers will also be provided with space (free of charge) within the market to sell CDs and other products.
Throughout the day on Sunday, May 27, an open mike will be held during which hand-drummers can take the stage and present their talent. As is customary, Peshlakai will also take the stage to sing and drum.
According to Peshlakai this venue has proved a springboard for many Native entertainers who were discovered in Tusayan by visitors and invited to perform throughout the world.
"All the older performers [who used to present at the Native American Market in Tusayan] are now booked in other countries. This is wide exposure at the Grand Canyon. People from other countries come through here and now dancers we used to have with us are touring Austria, Australia, Great Britain...." Peshlakai said.
On Monday the "Tribute to Fallen Warriors" drum session, and fry bread contest will take place. All interested fry bread experts are invited to participate.
Throughout the weekend, fry bread and Navajo tacos will be sold and the drummers will be treated to earth oven roast beef prepared by the Peshlakai family.
Vendors selling wares of all types will be present and all events are free.
"We're inviting all visitors to the Canyon. Since gas prices are so high and people can't travel, they can hang out here in the cool pines and help Native Americans support their families," Peshlakai said referring to the numerous vendors who rely upon this market as their main source of income. "This is the beginning of the whole summer of events."
If you can't make it this weekend, be sure to keep the following calendar and get to the Canyon to see at least one weekend of spectacular events at the Native American Market in Tusayan.
June 2-3, Navajo Dancers; June 9-10, Hopi Dancers; June 16-17, the Lane Jensen Family Hoop and Powwow Dancers; June 23-24, Navajo Dancers; June 30-July1, Hopi Dancers; July 2-4 Navajo Dancers and Village of Tusayan Independence Day Parade; July 7-8, Navajo Dancers; July 21-22, Lane Jensen Family; July 28-29 Navajo Dancers; Aug. 11-12, Navajo Dancers; Sept.1, Ceremonial Powwow; Sept. 2, Hoop Dance Contest; Sept. 3, Cowboys and Indian Musician Day and Fry Bread Contest.
For more information about the Peshlakai Cultural Foundation or the events visit www.Peshlakai.org.