Native American dancers, singers, basket weavers, artists and more gathered at Milton P. Antone Park Saturday for the 29th annual Native American Awareness Day.
“We designate this to have the opportunity to do some outreach for the community, for the members to partake in as well as employees,” said Ak-Chin Tribal Chairman Louis J. Manuel Jr.
Dancers from several different Native American tribes performed throughout the day. “We try to bring out different dance groups so our members hear and see different dances of other tribes,” said Sylvia Gutierrez, an Ak-Chin Him-Dak Museum employee who worked on the event.
Edward Miguel and his Matachine dancers from the Gila River Indian Community opened the event with a blessing that included traditional dancing and music. The group has performed at nearly every Native American Awareness Day in Maricopa since it began, Miguel said
“It’s an honor being asked to do our blessings for the people here, not just for those performing but also the people who worked to plan out this day,” Miguel said. “Once we become a Matachine, we make that commitment to do it for all those that ask for it.”
Miguel and his six accompanying dancers use elements in their dancing customary to their culture, including a gourd rattle and a wand.
Also in attendance were the Ak-Chin Ba’ban Kehina dance group, followed by Polynesian dancers, Akimel O'odham traditional singers and dancers, and the Rainbow dance group.
Each group of dancers incorporated different elements of their culture, from garments to instruments. The music was often vocalized by the dance group themselves, occasionally in a native tongue.
Jacob Butler showed visitors how to make clay pots while nearby his teacher, Ron Carlos, sold custom-made gourd rattles.
Carlos has been making pottery for 17 years and started making gourd rattles at the age of 16
“When I was a young man, nobody made these,” Carlos said. “It’s a lot of hard work.”While demonstrating his pottery skills for onlookers, Butler emphasized the need to use homemade clay, which takes days to make. He wants to be traditional in his pottery making and said it was a bad idea to purchase clay at any store.
Both Carlos and Butler are from the Salt River Indian Community.
Nearby, Philip Valentine sold CDs with music from native artists, as well as jewelry and baskets he gets from local vendors. He started by promoting his own music years ago and now sells dozens of CDs from artists Navajo Apache to contemporary blues, Valentine said.
Hopi Tribe member Cordell Sakeva had a table covered with artwork and intricate Native American carvings, his own handiwork. It was his first year attending the event, which he also designed the shirts for after winning a logo design contes
“I’ve been doing this since I was a child,” Sakeva said. “I love it.”
There was an ongoing volleyball tournament in the nearby Ak-Chin gymnasium and a horseshoe tournamen