Lori Piestewa National Native American Games
Lori Piestewa’s impact continues today in many ways, and each year in July her legacy lives on in the form of the popular Fiesta Bowl Lori Piestewa National Native American Games.
The games routinely attract hundreds of Native athletes from Arizona and beyond. This year’s games took place on the weekend of July 19 and featured basketball, softball, youth baseball, volleyball and cross country competitions. Athletes from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community regularly participate. SRPMIC hosted baseball and basketball games throughout the Community. The Community was also a sponsor of the games.
Piestewa (Hopi) was a 23-year-old American soldier in 2003 when she was killed in combat in Iraq. She was the first Native American woman serving in the U.S. Armed Forces to die in combat. She left behind her daughter, Carla, and son, Brandon, who were 3 and 4 at the time of their mother’s death. A few months after Lori’s death, Erik Widmark, executive director of the Grand Canyon State Games, established the Piestewa Native American Games in honor of Lori. Ever since, the games have taken place each summer in the Valley.
On July 19, Brandon and Carla, as well as Lori’s mother, Percy Piestewa, were in attendance as part of the opening ceremony at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Scottsdale Resort. Brandon and Percy spoke in front of a packed room of Native athletes and their families.
“Thank each and every one of you,” Percy Piestewa said. “It’s amazing what one person can do. Each of us are individuals; each of us matter; what you do matters. So, by participating and honoring Lori by doing what you love to do, that’s what we need to do throughout our lives. Always stay positive and remember you are here to have fun.”
Lori Piestewa was a great athlete. She played multiple sports and excelled at softball while growing up in Tuba City, Arizona. She was an active member in the ROTC. Her impact is easy to find in the Valley: a popular mountain in Phoenix was renamed Piestewa Peak in her honor.
“Sports in our background is very huge, with our mother playing softball in ROTC; both Carla and I have been influenced by playing sports for the majority of our childhood,” Brandon Piestewa said. “It’s really fun to see the youth come out and participate and see so many people here to honor our mother and get out and have fun.”
For more information about the Piestewa Games, visit https://fiestabowl.org/events/sanctioned-events/fiesta-bowl-lori-piestewa-national-native-american-games/.