Friday, Mar 2, 2012
Approximately 3,000 visitors celebrated Native American culture at the fourth annual American Indian Arts Fest on the grounds of Casa Grande Ruins National Monument over the weekend of February 11th and 12th.
The event featured live demonstrations, including flint-napping, native food preparation, Native American flute playing, and jewelry making. Nearly thirty exhibitors and vendors offered musical instruments, music CDs, paintings, jewelry and beadwork, pottery, baskets, katchinas, and gourd art to admire and purchase.
For the third year, Travis Terry, a Native American flutist who is Akimel O’odham and a member of the Gila River Indian Community, served as master of ceremonies for two full days of concert performances. Each day’s concerts was opened by O’odham traditional dances by the River People Basket Dancers and the Hashan-Kehk Traditional Dancers.
Attendees were treated to a variety of American Indian music and dance performances by world class musicians. Returning favorites included Native American Music Awards (NAMMY) 2011 performer of the year, guitarist Gabriel Ayala, who debuted his new album, Shades of Blue, at the event, and Native American flute players John Bear and Loren Russell. They were joined this year by Tim Blueflint, Aaron White and Anthony Wakeman, and Yosemite National Park’s ranger Ben Cunningham-Summerfield. Rona Yellowrobe, a nominee for the 2011 NAMMY songwriter of the year award, wowed the crowd on both days with her powerful vocals and virtuosity on a range of Native American flutes.
Because American Indian Arts Fest presentations are respectful of the peaceful and reflective nature of Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, the event did much to promote the park’s interpretive goals. It also supported the desire of traditionally associated tribes for public recognition of the sacred nature of the place to them and of their special relationship to the park. Some performers are modern descendents of original site occupants; however, all performers demonstrated and encouraged reverence and esteem for the place while raising public awareness and support for Casa Grande. The mix of traditional and contemporary performances focused attention on the continuity of culture and emphasized the relevance of the place to many generations – from prehistoric times to the present day.
The festival was made possible with assistance from Western National Parks Association and the Friends of Casa Grande Ruins, through partnerships with local organizations, and funding from commercial sponsors.