The third annual Grand Canyon Ceremonial Pow Wow was a bit of a disappointment in terms of numbers this year. But all in all, organizer James Peshlakai said the event was still a success, the event even being honored by a statewide foundation.
Hoop dancer Klee Benally of the Navajo tribe performs.
“The crowd was just average. The reports from the vendors is that they didn’t do as well as expected,” Peshlakai said. “But from other reports, some other vendors in the region — the county fair, Sedona — said they didn’t do as well as we did here.”
Carla Robertson, vice president of the Arizona Community Foundation, made a visit during the three-day pow wow, honoring the event. She also brought along visitors from Czechoslovakia for the show.
In the third annual Sonny Peshlakai Memorial Hoop Dance Contest, the oldest competitor won the grand prize and $300. Jones Benally of the Navajo tribe took first place, beating out a pair of four-time world champions.
Peshlakai said he was telling people that Benally is 82 years old, but admitted “he won’t tell me his age.”
Derrick Davis of the Hopi-Choctaw tribe was the first runnerup while Tony Duncan of the San Carlos Apache tribe was second runnerup. Both dancers have won four world hoop dancing titles each. Third runnerup was Navajo dancer Klee Benally. Fourth runnerup was Grand Canyon’s own Jonathan Yazzie.
Peshlakai said there was one girl in this year’s competition — 12-year-old Nesbah Yellowhorse of Tuba City. Yellowhorse won $100 just for competing.
Several tribes participated in the event. The longest traveling group were members of the Sioux-Lakota tribe from Eagle Butte, S.D. Harry Charger, a traditional medicine man, guided the tribe’s buffalo dancers to Arizona. Members of tribes in Mexico and Peru did not show up.
The ceremonial Earthoven feast was staged for two of the pow wow’s evenings. And it will be coming back later this month for locals.
“A lot of people learned about how Earthoven cooking is done,” Peshlakai said. “The vendors are planning to put on an Earthoven roast beef dinner for the people who supported us ... we appreciate all the support. So we’ll hold a community dinner on Sept. 27 in the afternoon. We’ll invite everyone and have Hopi dancers come again that weekend. We’ll put tables around the arena.”
The pow wow will likely be back in the future with four years left on their permit.
“Our plans are to continue to help promote tourism for the community of Tusayan and Grand Canyon Village,” Peshlakai said. “The vendors are very, very appreciative of the community of Tusayan for letting us participate in the tourist trade.”