- There was hardly a dry eye in Sinagua High Schools gymnasium
recently as Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano presented a dozen roses
to the family of war hero Lori Piestewa.
the emotions were ratcheted up yet another notch when Piestewas
son, 5-year-old Brandon Whiterock, hoisted the ceremonial torch
above his head signifying the opening of the Lori Piestewa National
Native American Games.
by the end of the largest Native American athletic gathering in
the country, organizers of the event were scrambling, trying to
figure out how to accommodate its growing popularity in the future.
event drew more than 1,500 competitors from 26 tribes in Arizona,
California, Kansas, New Mexico and Oklahoma, said J.R. Murray of
Flagstaff, one of the events organizers. They represented
52 different communities and competitors ranged in age from 7 to
73. Last year, in the first Native American games, there were only
about 1,000 competitors among Arizona tribes only.
of the difficulty in coming up with venues, we had to have the basketball
in Tuba City and the softball in Page," Murray said. "It
would be nice to have all the events in Flagstaff in the future."
Flagstaff city officials share that feeling, also.
fact, plans already are being made to make Flagstaff a mega, midsummer
gathering place for Natives from around the country, tying in the
Piestewa Games to Flagstaffs Indian Days festivities, which
were held a week later this year than the Piestewa games.
Flagstaff city officials have decided they want to back their event
up to ours and make it one huge weekend," said Eric Widmark,
executive director of the Grand Canyon Games, a non-profit organization
which oversees amateur athletic competition in Arizona, including
the Piestewa games. "This event really caught on last year
and having Lori Piestewas name attached to it made it even
more popular this year. Loris family has indicated that they
will continue their association with it in the future."
said the basketball competition would be moved to Flagstaff next
year but softball would remain in Page because of the lack of playing
fields in Flagstaff.
Peterson, a Flagstaff city spokeswoman, said combining the two events
"makes perfect sense and were looking forward to what
happens with this next year."
ago, Flagstaff was home to the annual pow wow, one of the largest
American Indian gatherings in the country, which was held at a downtown
park. But the event was cancelled because the central area of the
city wasnt equipped to handle the huge crowds it ultimately
attracted from the Navajo Nation and Hopi Reservation.
modified Indian Days celebration was begun in the early 1990s, which
features artisans and booths in the downtown area along with an