Arizona’s Native Tourism Community Preps for Super Bowl XLIX

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Super Bowl XLIX will be one of the biggest sporting events of 2015, with a significant portion of North America glued to a TV set while tens of thousands of fortunate fans get to watch the game live. This year, the game is in Arizona on February 1, and members of Arizona’s 22 federally recognized Native American tribes hope to grab visitor’s attention to their own attractions.

The American Indian Village, a quarter of a city block in size, with seven separate tribal village displays, will be the Arizona tribes’ main attraction during the Super Bowl. The traditional village set-ups will represent Navajo; Apache; Hopi; Zuni; O’odham and Maricopa tribes; River tribes, and several Pai entities.

The village is situated in Scottsdale’s Civic Center Park. And the Arizona American Indian Tourism Association (AAITA ) has been planning the family-friendly event for two years. “This is a great opportunity for us to welcome visitors from across the nation to ‘Native Arizona,’ opening a dialogue for networking through the villages that represent our Tribal Nations,” said Donovan Hanley, AAITA president and representative of the Navajo Nation Hospitality Enterprise.

The village was initially displayed during Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Arizona (attendance: 71,101) -- with subsequent showings at the 2012 Centennial festivities in Prescott, Arizona; and 1996 Super Bowl in Phoenix -- this fourth-time presentation is expected to draw upwards of 25,000 attendees. “This thing is huge,” says Rory Majenty, former AAITA president. “During the Centennial, it occupied major portions of nine roped-off city blocks filled with educational pavilions resembling mini-museums. The individual tribal cultural villages were the size of football fields.”

The Indian Village, one of the association’s largest collaborative efforts to date, will showcase sights, sounds, and flavors of Native dance, music, arts and crafts, and food -- a slice of tribal life. “The village itself will be both tangible and intangible,” Hanley says. “There will be traditional home structures -- a Navajo hogan, a traditional Hopi house, a Salt River Pima-Maricopa round house, teepees, pueblos, and wickiups. Sometimes people tend to group Indians together, but we’re all different, and one aspect of those differences will be highly visible in the representative living structures on display.”

Photo by Geri Hongeva

Traditional Hopi House with all the natural scents of sage and fresh plaster at the Arizona Centennial Celebration in Phoenix, Ariz., February 11, 2012

Daily entertainment includes performances by gourd singers with aboriginal instruments, social and ceremonial dances, storytellers who tell ancient legends, tribal elders sharing knowledge of the past, and basket/pottery making demonstrations. Serious art collectors and souvenir hunters will find hand-made creations in need of a new home; and, if hunger pangs strike, vendors with traditional Native American foods will be on hand to satisfy that hunger.

“The concession stands generate some revenue, but this isn’t about making money,” says Hanley. “We’re a non-profit organization with volunteers working together to increase tourism awareness and opportunities on Arizona Indian reservations and in tribal communities. The ‘wealth’ here involves the opportunity to present a consistent tourism product to individual visitors as well as associations, travel agents, and tour operators.

“People probably aren’t going to stop into the Village and immediately plan a vacation in Indian Country,” Hanley says, “But our authentic Indian Village may spur further interest in all we have to offer in this state.”

The Super Bowl will be played at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, home of the Arizona Cardinals, and will feature singer Katy Perry as halftime entertainment.

For more information about the Indian Village, log on to ArizonaIndianTourism.com or visit the AAITA Facebook page.