CHURCH ROCK, N.M. – Not only were parents letting their babies grow up to be cowboys an and cowgirls girls at the Indian an Junior or Rodeo Association awards banquet at Red Rock State Park Saturday night, they hey couldn’t have be been prouder to do it.
More than 180 kids between the he ages of 5 and 18 took home trophies, buckles, jackets, breast collars, saddle blankets an and a few lucky ones got saddles. Indian Junior Rodeo Association Rodeo Queen Tanya Silversmith hauled away ay a two-horse trailer. And everyone got handshake from Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr., Miss Navajo Nation Rachelle James and Miss Indian New Mexico Fern Spencer.
But the takings weren’t just a raffle or door prize. These kids earned them through skill and good times as they hey competed throughout the he rodeo season and racked ed up points.
More than 500 people showed up for or the awards dinner in boots, hats and Wranglers despite competition from the AIRCA Finals Rodeo and awards banquet Cortez, Colo. and basketball games in Gallup, N.M.
Pres. Shirley told the young cowboys an and cowgirls girls that even if they hey did didn’t win their event, “you’re still a winner in my book because you’re eating the he dirt and trying your best.”
He said it takes effort to remain physically fit it to compete but that is the teaching of the Navajo people. He urged them to use the power of prayer taught to them by their parents and grandparents to help them in rodeo and in life.
Most of all, he said, is that a person has as to respect himself or herself.
“You’re all winners. You’re all champions,” he said. “There are many more seasons ahead of you. There’s every chance in the world to become a world champion.”
James told the young cowboys and cowgirls to always do the heir best in competition but not to criticize others.
“Listen to your par parents,” she said. “You have your our prayers. Keep your smile. Run every day ay so you can stay ay physically fit. Drink water, not those sodas.”
Spencer told the kids how important they were to their parents.
“That word ‘shiyahze’ means a lot to a Navajo woman, ” she said. “It’s ’s your heart art. It’s your soul.”
She aid if mothers don’t see their children for several days, their hearts ache for them. She, too, urged the kids to pay attention on to their parents’ teachings.
“They’ve lived life,” she said. “They’re trying to protect you. Love and respect your parents because they’re the givers of life.”
IJRA President Lance Yazzie said the 35-year-old organization is the largest Native American junior rodeo association in the country. He said it is run entirely by parent volunteers who were pleased the Navajo President took the time to recognize the kids.
“I ’d like to thank the President for coming out and remembering these kids in this way,” he said. “I think a lot of these kids enjoyed that a big official like him could come out and be a part of this association.”
Yazzie said the motto of the IJRA “enhancing our native youth’s lives through junior rodeo.” He said parents spend a lot of time teaching the kids the dos and don’ts inside and outside the rodeo grounds, how to treat your our animals with care and respect, and what good sportsmanship is all about.
He said aid IJRA has more than 220 members this year. Of that several of the members go on to various rodeo finals and championships every year.
(George Hardeen is Navajo Nation Communications Director.)