TUSAYAN — The Peshlakai family at the Grand Canyon is well-known for its efforts to preserve Native American culture. Over Labor Day weekend, James Peshlakai, director of the Native American Experience, and the Perhlakai Cultural Foundation will sponsor the Grand Canyon, South Rim Native American Art Show and Ceremonial Pow Wow, Aug. 31 and Sept. 1-3.
“The event is dedicated to Jameson ‘Sonny’ Peshlakai,” said the older Peshlakai. “The people who encouraged me to hold this event were my friends and relatives.” A car accident claimed the life of Sonny on Oct. 16, 1999. Sonny was part of the Peshlakai family who perform and educate thousands of visitors at the Grand Hotel as part of his father’s Navajo dance company. Sonny’s two most popular performances were the hoop and eagle dances.
“We’re going to have the first annual James ‘Sonny’ Peshlakai memorial hoop dance competition,” Peshlakai said. “We’re hoping to attract some hoop dancers to this event.” Sonny’s grandfather, great-grandfather and great uncles were all medicine men and they passed their teaching onto James Peshlakai. “The Native Americans in the region hold the Grand Canyon very sacred,” he said. “We ask the Canyon to give us life. They know their connection with the Canyon. It’s a spiritual place for us.” A number of different groups have been asked to perform at the pow wow, which will have free admission. “We want to bring dancing from the tribes that live in the area,” Peshlakai said.