In honor of Native American Heritage Month, the Phoenix Suns celebrated Native American culture during their game against the Dallas Mavericks on November 19. A number of tribes from Arizona were represented through the night’s entertainment. Performers with O’odham ties included powwow/hip-hop dancers Indigenous Enterprise and guest DJ Tomahawk Bang (Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community member Wewhum Fulwilder), who played in the Dos Equis Beer Garden. Traditional dance groups also performed throughout the arena, such as the Vah-ki traditional singers and dancers from Gila River.
Fulwilder said that this was the second time he has performed at a Phoenix Suns game. His first performance was for Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks in July of this year.
“It was cool …. I had a lot of fun playing for the people walking in the door, and now that I am back for Native American Heritage Month it feels a lot more special. To see all the other Natives in line this evening who are here to perform or just to have fun and watch some basketball is cool,” said Fulwilder.
One of the biggest presentations of the night was the Item of the Night, a free Phoenix Suns T-shirt given out to the first 5,000 fans that was designed by SRPMIC resident and Tohono O’odham Nation member Thomas “Breeze” Marcus. He had announced his Phoenix Suns T-shirt design earlier in the week via his social media. This created a lot of buzz among his friends and fellow Natives, encouraging a lot of Community families to attend the game for a shirt.
This is the third project Breeze has worked on with the Phoenix Suns, and he will most likely work on other projects with the team in the near future.
“They had originally asked me to design something that represents all the Arizona tribes,” said Breeze. “But they kind of know me already too, so I said no, but I would design something that represents my tribe (O’odham). I hate to make other tribes feel left out, but I am always trying to represent the O’odham first because they are always left out.”
Breeze created two different T-shirt designs for the Phoenix Suns, the design that wasn’t used Breeze made a limited number of shirts in the second design and sold out in just a couple of hours.
“It was kind of weird; they walked up with the camera and it didn’t click in my head that they were going to put me on the Jumbotron,” said Breeze. “I got caught off-guard and I held up the shirt; it was a surreal moment.”
During a time-out in the game, Breeze appeared on the Jumbotron explaining the meaning of the T-shirt design and why this project was special for him. As the video ended, Breeze was shown in his seat holding up the shirt he designed.
Breeze is thankful for everyone being supportive and proud.
“It’s all I can ask for when it comes to any painting or design. I am always thinking about the O’odham people and how I can help us get represented,” he said.