For many Diné dancers, the 101st Annual Northern Navajo Nation Fair Contest Powwow in Shiprock, New Mexico was a homecoming.
Starting on the afternoon of October 5 and peaking the next night, the event featured more than 300 dancers packed into the dusty and extremely crowded pow wow grounds. For many participants and spectators alike this was the last big pow wow of the year in the Navajo Nation and a signal for many that the entire season was slowly coming to an end.
Pow wow coordinator and Red Mesa chapter president Herman Farley was proud of the high turnout. Besides an outstanding and dedicated pow wow committee, he also credited the large attendance to a strong advertising campaign that underscored the $45,000 in prize money.
“There are no other contest pow wows at the moment within this region, and so we had a lot of contestants,” Farley said. “Plus, we got good weather, it’s a little windy, but it’s a nice cool evening we are enjoying.”
Many pow wow fans didn’t mind the light winds, gritty conditions and relatively few working lights because they were just happy to see a full roster of dancers again. Even the pow wow’s popularity didn’t weigh against it.
“This pow wow is so big that you can’t move around,” Linda Yazzie of Phoenix said.
Attending the pow wow for the first time, northern traditional dancer Arno Rocky Joe of Gallup, New Mexico was impressed by the huge crowd and tough competition. “Shiprock is twice as big as what I’m used to and more well-known people are dancing at this pow wow,” Joe said.
For many local dancers and even more living near, but outside, the reservation, the Shiprock pow wow is a big tradition and something not to be missed. Some Navajos came as far as way as Canada while others simply crossed the street.
Tina Largo of Flagstaff, Arizona and daughter of one of the best golden-age dancers on the reservation, Norman Largo, enjoyed dancing and laughing with old friends while they tried to prognosticate how each contest would end.
“It’s beautiful but dusty,” Tina Largo said on the evening of October 6. “But the dancing and singing always overcome everything, and we’ve been coming for so many years that this is more of a family gathering for me than a competition.”