This gathering took place on the edge of the Yavapai-Prescott Reservation along EZ Street in a cement factory’s yard. Tribal members worked for 90 days cleaning up the place, building ramadas to protect elders from the warm weather and fixing up the place.
“It cost more sweat than money,” Jones said.
Rory Majenty, a Hualapai who served as coordinator of the Pai gathering, said the intent of the event was to sing, dance and rekindle relationships. He pointed out that three casino tribes used their funds to pay for the event.
“We’re not just singing and dancing. We’re remembering our ancestors,” he said. “We’re indigenous people, and we’re still here.”
Kerry Imus, outgoing vice chairwoman of the Hualapai, said she was honored “to be part of the Pai.”
“As a grandmother, I know the importance to talk to grandkids in our language,” she said.
Ft. McDowell President Raphael Bear said it was a large undertaking to get everybody together.
“At one time we were separate, but now we’re coming together,” he said.
President Bear said there is a lot in today’s world to pull young people apart.
“Sometimes they’re lost and they don’t know who they are,” he said.
President Bear said Ft. McDowell has its own Camp Y to teach the youngsters about their heritage. He added it’s always great to see families get together because great families make for a great society.
Matthew Putesoy, head of the Havasuapai Guardians of the Canyon dancers, said the group formed 10 years ago to fight forces that wanted to destroy the nature of the area.
Putesoy said the Pai gathering brings cousins together for songs and dances so they can teach the children about their culture. He said television and internet can distract children from their culture so it’s good that events like this put an emphasis on it.
James Uqualla, a cultural leader from Havasupai, said the Pai gathering was a forum for tradition, heritage and ceremony.
“It gives us a chance to share with all ethnicities,” he said.
Uqualla said tribes are always under threat to lose their heritage.
“It’s a birthright that we need to retain and maintain,” he said.
Uqualla said sometimes tribes lose their culture to surrounding municipalities as they become immersed in the mainstream culture.
(Stan Bindell, former Observer editor, is journalism and radio teacher at Hopi High School.)