Navajo Code Talkers honored at National Finals Rodeo
LAS VEGAS, Nev. — The National Finals Rodeo (NFR), one of the largest rodeo events of the year, took place in Las Vegas last week. On the last night of the 10-day competition, the event honored Navajo Code Talkers.
Navajo team roper and NFR contestant Derrick Begay, escorted U.S. Marine, and one of the last surviving Navajo Code Talkers, Peter MacDonald onto the arena floor in Las Vegas to be honored and recognized.
MacDonald, 92, serves as the Navajo Code Talker Association president.
The Navajo Nation Council praised the Wrangler Patriot Program and the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association for recognizing the code talkers and MacDonald.
“We are proud that millions of rodeo fans honored our Navajo Code Talkers during the National Finals Rodeo and this elite rodeo organization has acknowledged many Indigenous veterans this year. The Navajo Nation commends the Wrangler Patriot Program for supporting the families of our fallen soldiers and wounded warriors,” Navajo Council Delegate Wilson Stewart, Jr. said. “My community was honored Saturday night because we have two grandfathers who served as Navajo Code Talkers - Mr. Jimmy C. Begay and Mr. James C. Begay - from Fort Defiance, Ariz.”
The program was founded in 2009 and raises funds to support veterans and their families.
As for the competition, Begay was joined by fellow Navajo and NFR contestants Erich Rogers and Danielle Lowman.
Both Begay and Rogers compete in team roping, although not on the same team, and both had solid showings throughout the week.
Begay, a nine-time NFR qualifier, ended the week with four finishes in the top-five; including a first place finish during Round 2. He and his partner walked away with more than $47,000 in earnings at the end of the event.
Rogers won a world title at the NFR in 2017. He has qualified for the NFR 11-times.
He and his partner had three top-five finishes, with a second-place finish on the first night of competition. They earned more than $41,000 over the week.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez tweeted his praise for the men and their effort during the competition.
“Congratulations to Derrick Begay and Erich Rogers for competing hard and showing great sportsmanship at the 2021 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo! They gave it everything they had this year’s NFR and made us proud! Thank you for being an inspiration for our Navajo people! Ahe’hee’”
Lowman competes in breakaway roping. She had a pair each of third-place finishes and fourth-place finishes during her time in Vegas, resulting in more than $8,000 in earnings.
Navajo Nation Budget and Finance Chairman Jamie Henio said the three are great role models for Native youth and continue a long line of Native athletes participating in rodeo.
“The Navajo Nation applauds our own NFR athletes — Derrick Begay, Erich Rogers and Danielle Lowman — who are amazing role models for our young people,” he said. “They continue the long tradition of competing with the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association and representing the Navajo people on the world stage.”
Full results and highlights of the week can be found at prorodeo.com.