The Navajo Nation Fair Pow Wow in Window Rock
It was about 25 years ago that Nancy Ahboah took her first steps as a southern traditional dancer at the Navajo Nation Fair pow wow in Window Rock, Ariz.
It was the very first powwow she danced and now at the proud age of 71, Ahboah makes a point to return to the Navajo Nation Fair Powwow year after year.
“We get to meet other relatives, that’s a time for us to, for my whole family to come together…” Ahboah said. “We’ve been in powwows since forever, since my daughter, the oldest one, she started us out when she was going to school at Dine College…the first time I danced was here.”
Ahboah, Pima, was one of hundred of dancers and spectators at this years 66th Annual Navajo Nation Fair pow wow held Sept. 7-9.
The powwow included four divisions: tiny tots/junior, teen, adult and golden age, all of which were broken into male and female categories.
The total prize money given away was about $45,000.
Tony Parker, Navajo, powwow coordinator, said the powwow had a great turn out especially since it is only his second year organizing it.
“We had a pretty good crowd out there,” Parker said. “I was busy running around but I took a quick glimpse of the pow wow and looked around, (there were) a lot of happy people.”
Visitors from the surrounding area, Montana, South Dakota and even as far as Canada made the trip to the pow wow that was held in the midst of the other fair events.
Parker said many dancer and spectators enjoy the powwow because of the on-going activities that accompany the fair.
“There’s numerous people that do that come back, because we have the pow wow going on at the same time as the parade,” Parker said. “It’s just a big celebration.”
Roberta Smith, Navajo, who made the nearly four-hour drive from Flagstaff, Ariz., with her family, is one of the dancers who enjoyed the overall fair atmosphere.
She said not only was the pow wow location convenient but it allowed her to be with family she may not see often.
“Being Navajo I try and support my peoples function, the celebration here,” Smith said. “I meet my family here, we’re also a rodeo family…this is like a central base for us. And my friends are here, it’s not very often we travel to Navajo country to go to powwows cause be travel outward but this is the one pow wow we try and come back to, it’s kind of like a homecoming.”
Smith placed first in the women’s southern traditional division at the pow wow, which she said topped off her trip, but wasn’t the focus of it.
“It’s nice, even though the money’s low, but we don’t look at that, we understand that before coming over here.” She said. “We just like coming over here because there’s a lot of attractions other than pow wow, there’s song and dance, the carnival, arts and crafts across the street, that keeps me busy.”
Parker said an important part of the pow wow is to connect families who don’t get to see their traveling powwow family members very often.
He said that was one of the reasons he asked Sheldon Shebala and Arianne Sheka, both Navajo, to be head man and head woman for the pow wow. Sheka was even named the 2012-2013 Navajo Nation pow wow Princess.
“Head man dancer Sheldon Shebala, I asked him to be head man and he said it was good to be home,” Parker said. “A lot of people don’t get to see them all the time. A lot of families get together here, they meet up, and this is where they hang out. A lot of families get to reunite that’s the reason why it should continue.”
Other important people in the pow wow were arena director Dougie Ran from Alberta, Canada, head judge Steven Toya from Zia Pueblo, N.M., and gourd MC Andy Kozak from Denver, Colo., just to name a few. The host drums for the powwow were Iron Horse from the state of Washington and southern host drum Southern Outlaws from Hogback, N.M.
The pow wow is also a homecoming for 20-year-old Navajo northern traditional dancer Jared Brown.
Though he is originally from Sawmill, Ariz., not far from Window Rock, he spends a lot of time on the powwow trail.
Brown took second in the men’s northern traditional division last year but won first for the first time this year.
“I’m happy knowing that I got first,” he said. “I haven’t took first here at all so it kind of means something to actually take first here at all this year.”