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100 years of the Gallup Ceremonial

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Landmark celebration features virtual, in-person events

A global pandemic pushed the big celebration back one year, but the Gallup Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial, founded in 1921, will commemorate its 100th show from Aug. 4-14.

This year’s show carries a particularly special aura due to the centennial, which the Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial Board wants to convey through the events and the culture and history on display.

“We want to congratulate the State of New Mexico, City of Gallup, [Indigenous people] from all over the world, our local Native People, and everyone that has been a big part of this beautiful event for the last 100 years,” Ceremonial Board Member Rhonda Ray said. “It is a privilege, honor and legacy to celebrate the contributions that dedicate and honor Native American Culture all around the world in the heart of Gallup.”



The Ceremonial begins its in-person event slate on Aug. 4 with the Ceremonial Night Parade at 7:30 pm. The theme of the parade is “Come Back Down Memory Lane” to mark 100 years of the Ceremonial celebrating Native American & Indigenous Peoples culture, heritage, art, songs and dances throughout its 11-day run.

The event slate was determined after overcoming one of the most daunting challenges that the Ceremonial faces each year: budgeting.

“Lots of little things can change or unexpectedly come up during the event planning process, so I believe it’s best to keep the expenses modest and not over spend,” Ray said. “That then leads to another challenge, which is to gather and analyze the valuable event data. This can be interpreted as the event mishap on event [Return on Investment] to track what did or did not go well.”

Ray mentioned other logistic challenges with vendors and coordinators, including confirming communication, paying deposits on time, looping in on relevant communication, confirming the venues, the dates and times, and final confirmation. She said the weather is another factor to consider with the bevy of outdoor events, some of which could be canceled in certain conditions and can lead to crowd downturns and refunds needing to be issued.

But through it all, Ray said the Board will work through these issues through clear communication, which she holds as the key to success.

“Overall, we all have challenges in life, but we will continue to overcome, communicate and have faith in each other,” Ray said.



Then on Aug. 5 the Ceremonial begins in earnest at Red Rock Park at 1 pm with the Artisans Market, song and dance performances on the Four Winds Stage, and Ceremonial Queen & Tribal Royalty Meet & Greet. The day will be capped by “One World Beat,” described as a showcase of Native American & Indigenous Songs & Dances. The showcase runs on Aug. 5-6 at 7 pm both nights and features a spotlight performance and featured act.

The Aug. 5 spotlight performance is Pamyua, an Alaska-based Inuit-soul musical group established in 1995 which showcases Inuit culture through song and dance performances. As explained on their website, “pamyua” is pronounced “bum-yo-ah” and is the Yup’ik Inuit word for “encore” or “do it again.” More information can be found at http://www.pamyua.com/.

The second spotlight performance for Aug. 6 is HAKA: Mori Cultural Experience. Hailing from Aotearoa, or New Zealand, the group performs a haka, a ceremonial Mori war dance that includes tribal dances and choral singing to graceful action songs.



The weeklong slate for the Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial Rodeo at Red Rock Park begins with the Six-Shooter Six-Steer Team Roping Shootout on Aug. 7 at 8 am at the Butler Jackpot Arena, with teams and pairs aiming to rope one of six steers in the best time.

Following Jackpot Roping on Aug. 8, the rodeo festivities continue with the Junior Open Rodeo at Red Rock Park Arena on Aug. 9 at 8 am. Riders under 17 years of age will be split into five age-group categories and then compete in over 30 events that include flag racing, barrel racing, goat tagging, wooly riding, break away roping, pole bending, team roping, and more. Two events added to this year’s schedule are the Father/Daughter Rescue Race and Mother/Son Ribbon Roping.

Then on Aug. 10, there is the Iron Cowgirl Challenge at Red Rock Park Arena at 7 pm. Women of all ages will participate in events including breakaway roping, barrel racing, team roping and calf roping to compete for a cash prize.

Various rodeo slack events will occur on Aug. 11 as a preamble to the weekend’s show, including bull riding, junior bull riding, and an open rodeo slack at 8 am. The timed event slack will follow at 9 am, team roping at 6 pm, and conclude with rough stock performances of the open rodeo at 7 pm and a second rough stock at 7:30 pm.

Team roping events will occur from Aug. 11-13 at 6 pm each night.

As for the main event, the first performance of the open rodeo will occur on Aug. 12 at 1:30 pm at the main arena with the second performance following on Aug. 13 at 6 pm.

The rodeo will be capped on Aug. 14 with a wooly riding preshow at 11:30 am that will lead to the 12 pm show that includes a top 10 short round alongside Old School Days rodeo that will feature a wild horse race, hide race, pony express race, frybread pan throw, ranch bronco riding, women’s steer riding, fruit scramble and buffalo riding.



The ceremonial would not be complete without the Miss Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial Queen Pageant, where contestants will compete for the crown and title of The Ceremonial Queen to demonstrate the annual Ceremonial and Native American and Indigenous Peoples and serve as an inspiration and role model to Indigenous peoples.

This year’s contestants are Caitlin James, Navajo; Cajaun Cleveland, Navajo; Destiny Touchine, Navajo; Penelope Joe, Navajo; Samantha Antone, Tohono O’odham/Navajo; and Tyneesha Charlie, Navajo.

The public events will be held at the El Morro Theatre at 207 W. Coal Ave. Guests will be able to attend the following events:

Aug. 8: 2 pm - Little Miss Ceremonial Pageant (Free Event)

Aug. 9: 6 pm - Ceremonial Queen Dinner, Silent Auction and Public Speaking Competition

Aug. 10: 7 pm - Traditional Talent Showcase, 2021-2022 Miss Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial Queen Amber Ballenger Outgoing Presentation and Crowning of the 2022-2023 Miss Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial Queen



Another marquee event of the Ceremonial runs Aug. 12-13, the Kiowa Gourd Dance and Contest Pow Wow at the Red Rock Park Arena. The first gourd is at 4 pm and is followed by the grand entry at 7:30 pm the first night, followed by the gourd dance at 2 pm and the grand entry at 6 pm on the second night.

The dance contest age groups and categories are listed as follows:

Golden Age (Ages 60+)

Women’s all categories combined

Men’s all categories combined

Adults (Ages 18-59)

Women’s: Northern Traditional; Southern Traditional; Fancy Shawl; Jingle Dress

Men’s: Northern Traditional; Southern Straight; Fancy Feather; Grass Dance

Teens (Ages 13-17)

Girl’s: Northern and Southern Traditional combined; Fancy Shawl; Jingle Dress

Boy’s: Northern Traditional and Southern Straight combined; Fancy Feather; Grass Dance

Junior’s (Ages 7-12)

Girl’s: Traditional combined; Fancy Shawl; Jingle Dress

Boy’s: Traditional combined; Fancy Feather; Grass & Chicken (combined)

Tiny Tots (Ages 0-6)




Visitors to the first weekend of the Ceremonial can get a glimpse at Native American and Indigenous storytelling by taking in a screening of over a dozen feature-length and short films at the El Morro Theatre from Aug. 7-9. The schedule is as follows:

Aug. 7

2 pm - Legends of the Sky

3:45 pm - Dance Me Outside

5:30 pm - The Red Hooghan

Aug. 8

4 pm - Skins

6 pm - Honor Riders

8 pm - Smoke Signals

Aug. 9

3 pm - Pow Wow Highway

4:45 pm - Turquoise Rose

6:30 pm - 2021 Sundance Institute Indigenous Short Tour: (UDEYONV) (What They’ve Been Taught) - Brit Hensel (Cherokee Nation); THE HEADHUNTER’S DAUGHTER - Don Josephus Raphael Eblahan (Ífugão, Visayan); THE ORIGINAL SHAREHOLD EREXPERIENCE - Petyr Xyst (Roadrunner clan in the Pueblo of Laguna); LONG LINE OF LADIES - Shaandiin Tome (Diné); KICKING THE CLOUDS - Sky Hopinka (Ho-Chunk Nation/Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians); MAIDENHOOD - Xóchitl Enríquez Mendoza (Zapoteca)

8:30 pm - Q&A/Film Talk

9 pm - Spirit of the Ceremonial


Guests can also expect the Artisans Market, Juried Art Show, and assorted events at Red Rock Park and other non-city entities with their own gatherings.

Also on Aug. 6 at 7 am is the 5K Run/Walk that begins at Ellis Tanner Trading Company, 1980 Hwy. 602. Registration is free for all participants.

This crowded slate represents the endeavors of the Ceremonial Board, the City of Gallup, and the many sponsors who bring the show to fruition each year and have done so for a century.

“​​From the earliest days, the local women, men, children and tribal members, have held the Ceremonial to celebrate these beautiful traditions, stories, dancers, and culture. The Ceremonial brings so much meaning to life experiences and offers a sense of self and cultural expression,” Ray said. “My heart is so full of love right now for this event and the people from the past, present and future.

“The [event] reinforces the Ceremonial heritage by reminding us of the contributions made by each and every one of us who nurtured these traditions and will continue to do so. How much work and love have een put into this beautiful event can be seen on full display by people who believe, love and honor the culture of the Navajo people and other Indigenous people here and around the world,” she continued.

Ray left with this last message for Ceremonial guests:

“While you celebrate these events with us, please learn, listen, teach and share your stories. Appreciate the beauty of our stories, dances, artists, drums, and each other. Get together, laugh and pray for blessings. Interact with others and other natives. Support the art and artists. Respect the elders, listen to their stories. Share what you see with others who were not able to be with us by sending on social media. In doing so, it will support the coming years of the Ceremonial. Enjoy the native foods, rodeo, One World Beat events, all the songs and dances, art exhibits, and don’t forget to make your offerings. Pray before you leave for safe travels until we see you again.”

For more information on the Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial, including ticket sales and a full schedule, visit https://www.gallupintertribalceremonial.com/

By Cody Begaye
Contributing Editor