After a year’s hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Native American Recognition Day (NARD) was back at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix on July 18. Baseball fans were again able to see the best dancers and performers from Indigenous communities across the state before the game, with the Arizona Diamondbacks hosting the Chicago Cubs.
Before the dancers took the field, a variety of performance groups took turns every 15 minutes between the Sandlot and La Terraza on the upper concourse. Performers included tribal royalty, the Pee-Posh Dancers, D7 Bird Singers and Dancers, Native All-Stars, Diné Urban Voices and the Hashan-Kehk Traditional Dancers.
As the last performance group was finishing, all groups headed down to the field for a special dance across the entire outfield. Many different dance groups participated, wearing vibrant colors and traditional regalia.
One of those groups was Standing Horse Dancers, and Gabriel Scabby from the Salt River Fire Department was one of the performers.
“The Diamondbacks sent out a request for dancers to meet up and get ready to dance at the game. I believe I was the only Salt River tribal member involved with the group,” said Scabby. “The Diamondbacks welcomed us early in the morning. They gave us refreshments and provided hospitality until it was time to move out to the ballfield.”
Once it was closer to game time, the Standing Horse Dancers made their way down the tunnels to right field to await the grand entry. Then, the dancers were escorted onto the field.
The starting lineup for the Diamondbacks was announced to the packed crowd, and then the announcer called everyone’s attention to center field.
“The Blue Thunder drum group began singing, and we all got right into our style of dancing,” said Scabby. “It felt really good to be on that stage with good friends we haven’t seen in a year’s time due to COVID-19. We all enjoyed the chance to show the world that we are still here and thriving. In this day and age, it seems now more than ever we must use the opportunities to promote our Native identities with song and dance. That’s why we dance—for our ancestors before us, and for those who have gone on who want us to continue the legacy that is ours.”
Tribal royalty members from across Arizona were recognized along right field after the dance.
This year, NARD was presented by Gila River Hotels & Casinos and featured many members of the Gila River Indian Community before the game began. GRIC Governor Stephen Roe Lewis and Gila River Hotels & Casinos CEO Kenneth Manuel were on the field to cheer on GRIC members Michael Preston, who threw out the first pitch, and musician Adrian Thomas, who sang the national anthem in front of the color guard.
“Becoming a touring musician is my dream, and having any opportunity to perform in front of a crowd using my musical abilities is an opportunity I wouldn’t refuse,” said Thomas. “Not only did it help with my personal development, I went onto that field to sing the national anthem as a GRIC member and represented for the Community on a large platform.”
As for the game, the Diamondbacks defeated the Cubs 6-4, thanks to a solid pitching performance by Merrill Kelly.