Carnival rides, music, games, rodeo and much more are part of this month's Masik Tas.

[quote_box_right]IF YOU GO
What: Masik Tas
Where: Ak-Chin Circle Field & Arena, 16000 N. Maricopa Road
When: Dec. 5-15
Dec. 5-8: Basketball tournaments
Dec. 7, 7 p.m.: Light Parade on Farrell Road
Dec. 9, 11 a.m.: Charity Golf Tournament, Ak-Chin Southern Dunes
Dec. 13, 8 a.m.: All-Indian Junior Rodeo
Dec 13, 4-10 p.m.: Carnival
Dec. 13, 4 p.m.: Bull Bash
Dec. 14, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.: Carnival
Dec. 14-15, noon: All-Indian Rodeo
Dec. 14, 7 p.m.: Ramon Ayala Concert
Dec. 15, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.: Carnival

[/quote_box_right]By Fran Lyons

Masik Tas is an event held annually for the last 12 years to commemorate the formal recognition of the Ak-Chin Indian Community.

Masik Tas is a phrase derived from the O’odham language meaning birthday celebration. It is also a joyful festival and an opportunity for neighboring tribes and all the communities of Maricopa to participate. It a time of coming together and recognizing unity and shared values.

Agriculture is the foundation of the Ak-Chin lifestyle and informs the culture and traditions of the community.

“Farming is our backbone and always will be,” Chairman Robert Miguel said. “We have 16,000 acres designated to growing fruits, vegetables and traditional crops such as corn and alfalfa.”

All are invited to join with the Ak-Chin people as they celebrate Masik Tas. Highlights include the Light Parade Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. and a concert by Ramon Ayala Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. At the carnival, kids age 3 and over can ride all day for $10. Kids under 3 get in free.

Ak-Chin Chairman Robert Miguel

The history of Ak-Chin in relatively recent years began when President William Howard Taft signed a document in 1912 establishing the land for the Maricopa Reservation. Originally provided over 47,000 acres, which was later reduced, farming continued on the 22,000 acres the tribe still maintains today.

In 1961, the tribe’s government was formally organized under the Federal Articles of Association. The Ak-Chin Community is governed by a five-member tribal council. Its governing body oversees all aspects of tribal and community affairs.

The O’odham word Ak-Chin translates to “mouth of the arroyo or wash” or “place that loses itself into the sand or ground.” The term refers to a type of farming that relies on washes – seasonal food plains created by winter snows and summer rains.

[pull_quote_left]Our jalapenos are distributed to Pace Picante for salsa, potatoes to Frito Lay, Poor Brothers and In-n-Out Burger, and our pecans are shipped overseas.[/pull_quote_left]“The Ak-Chin have always been farmers and have followed the Vekol Wash.” Miguel said.

The first major enterprise of the community was Ak-Chin Farms, which currently harvests over 15,000 acres, making it one of the largest farming communities in the United States.

“Our jalapenos are distributed to Pace Picante for salsa, potatoes to Frito Lay, Poor Brothers and In-n-Out Burger, and our pecans are shipped overseas,” the chairman said.

It also goes without saying this is how the Ak-Chin contribute to and nourish their own community and surrounding neighbors. Other crops, found in the wild, are harvested to support the creative endeavors of the community artisans.
“There are only 10 traditional basket-weavers in the community that can continue and pass on the heritage and artistry of this gift of beauty,” Miguel said.

The community is well known for the unique patterns and intricate design of the baskets they create, which will be seen during Masik Tas.

This story appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.