Flagstaff Indian Days — a return to tradition <br><br>

Mayor’s proclamation

Flagstaff Mayor Joe Donaldson read a proclamation honoring Flagstaff Indian Days for the respect that indigenous Indian cultures deserve. The proclamation recognized the skills that natives have in rodeos and encourages them to participate in pow wows.

The events included a pow wow, an All-Indian rodeo and an Indian market.

Flagstaff Indian Days celebration is meant to promote cultural understanding, respect and appreciation.

Mayor Donaldson, who is half-Aztec Mexican Indian, noted there are nine tribes surrounding Flagstaff.

“We have excellent relations. After I was elected, we started meeting right away to build bridges so we could work together,” he said.

Mayor Donaldson said he also enjoyed the native foods, especially the mutton stew and fry bread.

“Which I don’t need,” he laughed.

Mayor Donaldson said he enjoys the Flagstaff celebration because it gives Indian people a chance to come together. He was also happy because alcohol was not allowed on the premises.

“Alcohol does not need to be part of any celebration,” he said.

Donaldson, who also serves on the board of directors for Flagstaff-based Native Americans for Community Action, said alcohol is a problem among Indian people.

“What can be done about it? Events like this where there are celebrations without alcohol,” he said.

When Donaldson was first elected a bit over four years ago, the Flagstaff Indian Celebration was held the same weekend as the Beerfest.

“It was right near here and a lot of Indian people were upset. Now, the Beerfest isn’t until August,” he said.

Understanding culture

Nicole Begay, 13, was at the pow wow to jingle dance.

This Pinon resident has danced since she was 1 year old and continues to enjoy it.

Martella Singer, whose uncle Art Singer coordinates the celebration, came back to the event for the fifth straight year.

“My sister Pam runs the pow wow, so I like to help out,” she said.

Pam Saufkie, the sister, also enjoys the pow wow, but wants to see it get bigger.

“Part of the intent of Indian Days is to help the young people understand the culture. Getting involved with pow wow and rodeos shows them that there are other activities besides drug and alcohol,” she said.

Saufkie said running the pow wow costs about $50,000 with $14,000 going to rent the fairgrounds and most of the rest going to prize money. She said her family holds fund-raisers and raffles throughout the year.

Along with the entrance fee, they raise the money to hold the event.

Ben Hanley Sr., master of ceremonies at the pow wow, has been coming to this pow wow since it started.

“I really enjoy it because it brings the natives and non-Indians together to enjoy themselves,” he said. “This pow wow is unique. It’s not commercialized like some of the other pow wows.

“It has more of a traditional nature-like feel to it because it’s in the woods.”

Clayson Benally, unlike the others, was new to this pow wow. Benally, 25, was going to perform the Northern traditional dance.

“This is my first time back to dancing in 10 years. It’s a part of life I need to return to,” he said.

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