An annual gathering of Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community members in the Lehi District took center stage on March 31 and April 1. The Piipaash Matasheevm (People’s Gathering) took place at the Lehi Gathering Area, with a day and a half of celebrating and honoring the Piipaash culture. The gathering is organized by the Piipaash Matasheevm Committee.
Diana Scabby and Michael Dallas, SRPMIC Council Representatives for the Lehi District, opened both days of the Piipaash Matasheevm, thanking the committee for hosting the event.
The masters of ceremonies were Pacer Reina and Garfield Nish, who announced each of the days’ various activities. The veterans on the committee presented the flags at the east end of the gathering area, ushered in by a traditional song performed by Nish to honor and remember the men and women who served in the Armed Forces and those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Every year, the Piipaash Matasheevm Committee invites bird singers and dancers from neighboring tribal communities, both near and far, to attend and perform at the event.
On the second day of the Piipaash Matasheevm, the Young River People’s Council hosted a short walk which started and ended at the Lehi Gathering Area. Individuals walked down to Oak Street and back. Each participant received a swag bag.
This year, the committee recognized two former committee members, Ronnie Mack and Rick Nelson, who have passed on. The Elder Honoree was Hazel Rivers. Three veterans from Lehi also were recognized: Marjorie Gates-Whitlock, Cameron Grey Jr., and former SRPMIC President Delbert Ray Sr.
Gates-Whitlock was at the forefront of women in the military. After graduating from Haskell Indian Nations University, she worked for the U.S. government civil service, then enlisted in the U.S. Army, where she achieved the rank of corporal. She spent time at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and then was deployed overseas to Okinawa, Japan. Her highlight in the civil service was being appointed to the Harry S. Truman Presidential Election Committee.
Grey served in the U.S. Marine Corps and was deployed to Vietnam as a private. He was in the Marines from May 1967 to April 1970; during that time, he received the Vietnam Campaign Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, a Purple Heart, the Vietnam Service Medal with Star, and a Vietnam Presidential Unit Citation.
Former SRPMIC President Delbert Ray Sr., also a Marine, served in Vietnam and reached the rank of lance corporal while in the service. Ray was in the Marines from April 1969 to January 1972 and received the National Defense Service Medal and the Vietnam Service Medal with Star.
The Piipaash Matasheevm Committee wanted to extend a special thank-you to guest singers/groups Lynwood Vest, Sterling Selana, William Madrigal Jr., Clayburne Nodman, Roland Golding, Ivan Bender, Angel Ortiz, Ral Christman, Derek Duro, Jeremiah Shaw, Tyrone Harper, Jeremy Golding, Lyman Golding and Andre Polk, along with the many others they weren’t able to greet firsthand. To Larry Hammond, Paul Cuero, Mike Mirelez and other invited singers who were unable to attend, the committee members understand and hope that timing lets them join the gathering in 2024.
The committee members also wish to thank the beautiful dancers who brought magnificent color and grace to the dance circle.
Finally, the following program participants and generous supporters offered their time, in-kind services and contributions that helped to make this year’s Piipaash Matasheevm a success:
• The Nelson, Mack, Rivers, Gates, Grey and Ray families
• Welcomed guests who traveled from near and far
• The SRPMIC Council
• SRPMIC Public Works: Crystal, Rocky, Fausto and team
• Salt River Veterans Representative Office: Troy, Amanda and Sierra
• A/V staff: Robb, Darren, Wes and Broadcast Rentals
• SRPMIC Community Relations: Janet, Amy and Chris
• SRPMIC Community Development Department: Fleet Department
• SRPMIC Cultural Resources Department
• Annette Vest and the Bird Singing and Dancing by the River group
• Cecilia Antone
• The Vest Family
• Miss Salt River and Court
• Miss Indian Arizona
• The Young River People’s Council
• The Lehi Boys & Girls Club
• Salt River Community Children’s Foundation
• Salt River Police Department and Salt River Fire Department
• SRPMIC Day Work Program
• The Journey to Recovery program
• Salt River Materials Group
• Salt River Landfill
• Salt River Community Gaming Enterprise
• Mike Smith of Peeposh Chevron
• David Dallas Painting
• All vendors
• Committee members’ spouses, kids and grandkids