How The Sioux Help Make Indian Horse Relay Racing Famous

“Tension fills the air. The stands are packed with people who have come to see riders wearing full feather headdresses and fringed chaps, riding horses with rumps that have been painted with pink and yellow handprints and various other esoteric or sacred insignia. The Native athletes ride bareback for one lap around before jumping off one horse and onto the next to ride another lap… It’s an insane spectator sport; riders and handlers nearly get trampled in the chaos, horses have gone down and have had to be euthanized right there on the track, and beneath it all is perhaps the primal draw of American history: the Native as Other… real Indians with feathers in their hair, skillfully riding bareback, out here on the plains, for the first time in almost 100 years.” S. Marsh, Victory Journal

photo- chris douglas

Excerpt:  The Riders By  Steve Marsh, Victory Journal

“The first Mystic Lake Derby was held in 2013. Andy Vig, the son of powerful tribal chairman Stanley Vig, was put in charge of coordinating the race, and although the racing results weren’t that exciting by themselves—most of the participants were used to shorter tracks, so Canterbury’s mile long oval produced blowouts—the action and pageantry have become a big draw. Ever since, the Indian Relay heats have taken place between races during the Canterbury’s biggest weekend of the year: the Mystic Lake Derby, a race day with $200,000 in cumulative purses, that serves, according to Canterbury CEO Randy Sampson, as the track’s crown jewel of the racing season.

The Horses-photo- chris douglas

The Derby brings in the best horses in the region, and that kind of quality brings out the eccentric rich people with the funny hats. But it’s the Indian Relay racing that brings out casual racing fans and suburban families…It’s Thursday, eight hours before the first heat, and Richard Longfeather, a Dakota Indian and relay team owner hailing from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, has just been disqualified.

The Fans-photo- Cody photography

He pulled into Shakopee this morning after making the eight-hour drive with his wife, their son, his son’s best friend, and their nephew, and a trailer full of five thoroughbred horses… According to SMSC’s Andy Vig, one of Longfeather’s horses didn’t have the correct vaccination paperwork. He’s near tears as Vig explains that he shares his disappointment, especially since Longfeather’s team was the only Dakota Sioux relay team at the event—meaning that in some ways his team would have been the de facto local favorites…As Longfeather huddles with his family to worry about having to make the long drive back to Little Eagle, South Dakota, the other 13 relay teams are getting their horses situated in the receiving barn. 

One of the favorites to win the relay is Starr School, a Blackfeet team from Browning, Montana. Last June they won the Muckleshoot Gold Cup, a big $50,000 purse Indian relay held at Emerald Downs, a track owned by the Muckleshoot tribe out in Seattle, Washington…Because of the Muckleshoot win, Starr School’s 21-year-old Isiah Crossguns is quickly becoming a star in the relay world. Like most relay riders, Crossguns is tall, much taller than the horseworld’s typical jockey…

It’s just after before twilight, and time for the first heat of the evening. In an unexpected development, somehow the veterinarian back in Standing Rock has unearthed the correct herpes papers and Richard Longfeather’s team has been cleared to race. This would be fishy if this had happened in any other sport, and it is in this one as well, I guess, but when I find Richard by the barn with his horses, he’s ready to race, wearing his homemade lime green team Longfeather jersey. 

The Race:

After the intros of each team over the P.A. system by ‘the Voice of Canterbury’ (and Minnesota Vikings super bro play-by-play man) Paul Allen, the entire field gets off to a galloping start.

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To no one’s surprise, Isiah Crossguns takes the lead over the first lap. He’s ahead by more than five lengths on the backside before being slowly reeled in by a horse and rider from the Tissidimit team, from on the Fort Hall Reservation in Idaho.

On the second lap Tissidimit takes the lead. Their rider maintains his lead coming out of the second exchange.

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Crossguns gives one more valiant charge on the back stretch, but Tissidimit’s rider has obviously left something in reserve for the home stretch, and wins by two lengths at the stripe... Longfeather’s team is set to race in the second heat. His son Jace feels like he’s carrying too much weight for the the mile long track at Canterbury, so his friend Justin Fox is atop the horse. When the gun goes off, Longfeather’s thoroughbred doesn’t react, perhaps due to the last minute rider switch.

Photo: chris douglas

The previous year’s champion relay team, DD Express—Sioux Indians from the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota shoot ahead by 20 lengths. Longfeather’s team finishes dead last…As with every other heat, the exchange box positions are determined by a random drawing before the race. The best hope for a team is to draw a spot on the near end, to avoid as much of the chaos in the middle as possible.

Photo-Canterbury Park

Starr School and Tissidimit are the lucky ones tonight, drawing the first and second boxes, respectively, while DD Express is the least, drawing the seventh spot on the far end of the boxes.

DD Express comes out hot, with Starr School second and Tissidimit in third. But on the back stretch of the first lap, the other Oglala Sioux team, Brew Crew, vigorously “goes to the stick,” as they say, and takes the lead into the first exchange…

Paul Allen interrupts the middle of his call to shriek, ‘DD EXPRESS HAS BEEN ELIMINATED! DD EXPRESS HAS BEEN ELMINATED!’

Allen explains it has to do with the crash on the first exchange.

‘THE DEFENDING CHAMPION WILL NOT REPEAT AS CHAMPIONS!’

“HERE COMES TISSIDIMIT MAKING A BIG MOVE!” Allen bellows.

When Tissidimit starts to slide back around the final turn, Allen accuses the slowing horse of “doing the moonwalk,” but they quickly reengage.

Abrahamson fades just at the wire and…It was going to be a photo finish. 

The slow motion replay on the jumbotron makes it look like Brew Crew had won by a nose. The Oglala Sioux are now out on the track and they are yelling, ‘WE ARE THE HORSE NATION! WE ARE THE HORSE NATION!’

‘We await the official results,’ Allen cautions.

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After another few interminable minutes of silence, we all realize something is wrong. Paul Allen comes back and again directs our attention to the large infield monitor. He explains that right before the wire, Sylvan Brown reached across and grabbed the reins of Tissidimit’s horse. The Zapruder-like evidence is blatant.

‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ Paul Allen comes in over the loudspeaker again, this time sounding like a disappointed school principal, ‘the original winner, Brew Crew, has been disqualified.’ The crowd gasps.

‘And the new Indian Relay Horse Racing Champion is Tissidimit.’

Tissidimit team rider Jared Cerino gets the win in Heat 1 August 25 at Canterbury Park.

After Tissidimit is awarded gaudy golden belt buckles and an oversized check for $7200—their portion of the purse—I walk next to Cerino on the way back to the barn. He is amped from the race, of course, and reveals that Sylvan Brown, the rider of Brew Crew, had called him a “motherfucker as he grabbed his inside reigns.

‘We had words after the race,’ he explained. ‘But instead of those words going to fighting, I told him just to don’t let it happen next time.’ He took a breath. ‘I got to chill so I can come back next year.’

And with that, he heads into the barn to celebrate with his teammates.”

 

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Two Spirit Nation Rejects Supreme Court Decision…

“Monday the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of a Colorado bakery’s discrimination against LGBTQ2s couples, citing an exemption due to religious freedom. This is one of many attacks against the Two Spirit community who stays resilient in the face of racism, homophobia, and transphobia every day.” ICT Editorial Team

Two Spirit Nation

Excerpt: Two Spirit Nation rejects Supreme Court decision, citing sovereignty rights ICT Editorial Team

“Two Spirit is a term that was coined in the 90s as an umbrella term to describe the cultural role and blessing of Two Spirited people that possess both the masculine and feminine perspectives amongst Indigenous cultures of Turtle Island (Canada, North America & Mexico).

Flag Raising ceremony. TSN

They were honored as healers, leaders, mediators, liaisons, foster parents, warriors and vessels. In 2016, we most recently reclaimed a strong and leading presence at Oceti Sakowin (Standing Rock), as Two Spirit Warriors amongst our water protectors.siblings. ‘It’s not right” Says Henry/Helina Brings Plenty, a Two Spirit youth, Oglala Lakota Sioux/Northern Cheyenne/Azetca Mexica ‘At their wedding, everyone should deserve a chance to feel special on a day they want to feel special — regardless if they are gay or straight.’

‘It is our youth that is the destination for our liberation, and we must show them how these laws are colonized’ Says Court Morse, Two Spirit Nation Field Director. “They are watching us to see how we must stay resilient…’The Two Spirit Nation will continue to move forward in their advocacy for all Two Spirit people.”

Please visit our website and social media if you are interested in following us or donating.

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ALSO OF INTEREST:

Google Doodle Features Onondaga First Nations Running Champion Tom Longboat, By Vincent Schilling, ICT

Tom Longboat was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1955 as Canada’s greatest long distance runner, ICTMN

 


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Navajo Nation Demands Prez Addresses His Daughter’s Drunk Driving Charge!

“Karis Begaye, daughter of Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and probably the second most powerful person in the president’s office, is now on administrative leave after being charged with extreme DWI on April 29. The announcement of her placement on administrative leave occurred on Tuesday, five days after the story of her collision with a semi-trailer near Flagstaff was first reported by a local television station. During those five days, the president’s office only issued a short statement after the accident, saying that Karis Begaye had reported the accident and that it ‘may have’ involved alcohol.” B. Donovan, Navajo Times 

Coconino County Sheriff’s Office booking photo of Karis Begay on April 22, 2018.

 

Excerpt: Karisgate heats up By Bill Donovan, Navajo Times

“The statement did not mention that she was driving a SUV owned by the Navajo Nation at the time of the accident and that the vehicle was severely damaged.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye (R.) and Vice President Jonathan Nez (L.)

After reports began circulating that she had received no disciplinary action and had even been allowed to use another tribal vehicle, many tribal members went on social media to protest, accusing the president of favoritism and failure to follow tribal law.”

Category: Social

Native Tribes Fight for Their Share of Sports Betting

“State officials from California to Connecticut spent last week maneuvering for control of the tens of billions of dollars in projected revenue from sports betting, and joining them was another group of powerful, and familiar, gambling operators aiming to claim their piece of the action: American Indian tribes.” Draper, Arango, and Blinder, The New York Times

Kevin Brown (left) chairman of the Mohegan Tribe, and Rodney Butler (rt.) chairmen of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council. The Boston Globe.jpeg

Excerpt: Indian Tribes Dig In To Gain Their Share Sports Betting  K. Draper, T. Arango, and  A. Blinder, The New York Times

“For three decades, federal legislation has allowed the tribes to operate casinos dominated by slot machines and blackjack tables. Now, after a groundbreaking Supreme Court decision cleared the way for states to allow betting on sports, industry experts say what may become a yearslong fight over control of sports betting will hinge on the fine print of a series of gaming agreements between state governments and Indian tribes.

In Connecticut, for example, where two federally recognized tribes, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and the Mohegan Tribe, operate the hugely successful Foxwoods Resort Casino and the Mohegan Sun, leaders of the organizations have insisted they alone have the legal authority to offer sports betting, according to their compacts with the state. They say the state may incur a steep penalty if it violates those agreements…

Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council, said he had met with state legislators and representatives of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to begin negotiations. ‘We have said, ‘We want to work with you,’ Mr. Butler said. ‘Let’s work out an arrangement.’

With billions of dollars at stake, such discussions are likely to represent some of the sharpest negotiations between the tribes and government officials since 1988, when Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. That legislation allowed federally recognized Indian tribes to offer casino-style games like slot machines, blackjack and roulette on tribal land. There are now 238 tribes in 28 states offering some form of gaming, according to the National Indian Gaming Commission. Betting on sports represents a small fraction of that amount, though industry experts say the court ruling will most likely allow that to increase significantly.

In California, dozens of Indian-owned casinos generate close to $8 billion in annual revenue, the most of any state, giving the tribes enormous influence over the gambling industry…Kevin Brown Red Eagle, chairman of the Mohegan Tribe in Connecticut, said that in the interest of expedience, he and his organization were at least willing to include the Connecticut Lottery Corporation and Sportech, the other two entities included in proposed sports betting legislation in the state, in negotiations.”

Category: Social

European Sports Teams Still Use Native Mascots

“Benjamin Bundervoet was wearing his normal workday outfit — a blue-and-white feathered headdress, a fringed tunic and chaps, bright paint streaked across his cheeks as he stepped onto the grass. For the next few hours, Bundervoet would be Buffalo Ben, the official team mascot for K.A.A. Gent, a top Belgian soccer team. As the players warmed up before kickoff at a recent home match, Bundervoet smiled and waved a flag bearing the team’s logo, the profile of a Native American, which is also plastered around the Ghelamco Arena.” A. Keh, The New York Times

Buffalo Ben, the official team mascot for the Belgian soccer team K.A.A. Gent. His sidekick is a female version named Buffalo Mel. Credit Jimmy Bolcina:Photonews, via Getty Images

Excerpt: Tomahawk Chops and Native American Mascots: In Europe, Teams Don’t See a Problem, By Andrew Keh, The New York Times

“Scenes like this play out every weekend across Europe, where teams big and small and across a variety of sports employ Native American names, symbols and concepts of wildly variable authenticity in their branding. There’s the hockey team in the Czech Republic that performs a yearly sage-burning ritual on the ice, the rugby team in England whose fans wear headdresses and face paint, the German football team called the Redskins and many more.

Exeter Rugby Club, a top English rugby union team, rebranded itself as the Exeter Chiefs in 1999. Its mascot, Big Chief, appears at matches waving a toy tomahawk.Credit Stu Forster:Getty Images

For years, these teams were insulated from the vigorous discussion about the use of this type of imagery by sports teams in the United States, where critics long ago deemed the practice offensive and anachronistic.

This year, the Cleveland Indians announced that they would stop using their Chief Wahoo logo on their uniforms beginning in 2019, continuing a decades-long trend in which thousands of such references have disappeared from the American sports landscape.

During that same period, though, new examples were appearing in Europe, where teams and fans have long viewed the mascots and logos through kaleidoscopes of local culture and, detached from the charged history that the imagery carries in the North America, formed their own ideas about what is socially acceptable.

But these ideas are slowly being challenged, and increasingly these teams are finding themselves being asked to confront the same questions of representation, appropriation and stereotyping. K.A.A. Gent, for example, devotes a lengthy page on its website to the history of its logo and nickname, but notes only that the club is ‘aware of the public debate in American society around the use of stereotypical images and caricatures.’

“Americans, Canadians, they’re working on this issue, talking about it, debating,” said Stephanie Pratt, a cultural ambassador for the Crow Creek South Dakota Sioux and longtime resident of Exeter, England. “Europeans are late to the table. They’re just beginning to debate it — or maybe not at all.”

Pratt has found herself in the middle of one such debate involving the Exeter Chiefs, the defending champions of England’s rugby union league.

Exeter, which rebranded itself as the Chiefs in 1999, calls its team store the Trading Post and its online fan group the Tribe. Fans chat on a message board named Pow-Wow.

Among the 15 bars at the team’s home stadium are Wigwam, Cheyenne, Apache, Mohawk, Tomahawk, Buffalo and Bison… The Frolunda Indians, a professional hockey team from Gothenburg, Sweden, was known as Vastra Frolunda IF until 1995, around the time that the Swedish Hockey League began encouraging its clubs to adopt American-style nicknames. Inspired by the Chicago Blackhawks and the fact that the team in the 1960s was said to play in a “vilda vastern,” or Wild West, style, it chose the Indians.

The club developed a cartoon logo depicting an Indian chief with a headdress fanned around his stern face, and for a time the team’s costumed mascot was a Native American hockey player with a missing tooth and feathers poking through his helmet. (These days, the team’s in-stadium mascot is an anthropomorphic bison.)

‘We, from a distance, follow the discussions about the Washington Redskins, the Cleveland Indians,’ said Peter Pettersson Kymmer, a Frolunda team spokesman.

‘But we sincerely think that our Indian, in our point of view, is in no way offensive to the Native Americans. On the contrary, it’s a tribute, and we’re proud to wear it.”

Category: mascots, Sports

Large Number of Feral Horses Dead on Navajo Land in Arizona

“Approximately 191 feral horses have been found dead in a stock pond on Navajo land in northern Arizona, according to Navajo leaders, who attributed the death to ongoing drought and famine. ‘These animals were searching for water to stay alive. In the process, they unfortunately burrowed themselves into the mud and couldn’t escape because they were so weak,’ Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez said in a statement on Thursday.” A. Vera, CNN

Approximately 191 feral horses were found dead at a stock pond on Navajo land in Arizona.

Excerpt: Nearly 200 dead horses found on Navajo land in Arizona, By Amir Vera, CNN

“Some of the horses were found thigh- to neck-deep in the mud at the stock pond in Gray Mountain, according to Nina Chester, a staff assistant for the office of the president and vice president. Hydrated lime will be spread over the animals to speed up decomposition. They will be buried on-site, the statement said.

The Navajo community in Arizona has had to contend with a growing feral horse population of about 50,000 to 70,000, according to the statement…Horses dying at the Gray Mountain stock pond isn’t new, Navajo officials said. It’s a seasonal issue.

An intense drought hit the southwestern United States this year, creating dry conditions in northern New Mexico and southwestern Arizona, according to CNN affiliate KNXV-TV. A drought emergency was declared for the Navajo Nation in March.”

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