Arizona Indian Festival Closes Out Scottsdale’s Western Week Celebration

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Miss Salt River Kennise McGertt welcomed visitors to the Arizona Indian Festival.

By Kari Haahr

To cap off Scottsdale’s annual Western Week celebration, which began on January 27, the Arizona American Indian Tourism Association held its annual Arizona Indian Festival on February 3 and 4 at the Scottsdale Civic Center. 

While Western Week as a whole is a celebration of Scottsdale’s identity as part of the “Old West,” the Arizona Indian Festival is a unique intertribal event celebrating the traditional cultures, arts, crafts and foods of the state’s 22 federally recognized tribes and promoting various tribal tourism opportunities. 

The event’s two primary areas were the main stage, where tribal dancers and singers from across the state performed both narrative and social dances, and the “Indian village,” highlighting cultural traditions and dwellings of Arizona’s tribes. Tribal arts and crafts demonstrators, food and travel/tourism vendors and representatives for Miss Indian Arizona were available for questions and information. Art and craft vendors from as far away as New York occupied a series of booths weaving around both sections. Representing the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community was Beaded Plume, a business featuring an array of unique beaded jewelry handcrafted by Maricela Hinojosa.

In his opening address, Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega said, “When I see people holding hands in a circle of many nations, of many origins coming together in Scottsdale, it really warms my heart. Scottsdale is a wonderful center for joy, and you make us joyful.” He then asked the members of the tribal royalty to provide short introductions, beginning with 2023-24 Miss Salt River Kennise McGertt.  

Across Civic Center Park and in the Indian Village area, the SRPMIC had a booth where traditional weaving methods were demonstrated, highlighting some of the important steps for crafting a sturdy basket with appropriate materials. A few steps away, representatives from Discover Salt River consistently had a long line of visitors eager to learn more about the many offerings of the Talking Stick Entertainment District. The village proved to be a hub of excitement. Attendees saw side-by-side representations of different tribal cultures and their selected crafts for demonstration. Tribal representatives shared the unique features and highlights of their communities, encouraging tourists and visitors of all backgrounds to visit. 

Also within the village a children’s crafting section stayed busy, as did the Miss Indian Arizona Booth, which had a popular “Indigenous Barbie” photo op.

As an event that draws visitors from well beyond Arizona, many guests were newly introduced to the tribal communities that have called this land home since before Arizona became a state. The Arizona Indian Festival itself was a promising conclusion to Western Week, as it provided a final thought about Scottsdale’s “Wild West” legacy and honored Native populations and their perspectives.

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