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Three-day 'Chasing the Sun' event Native people, culture, traditions

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PHOENIX – Hopi Vice Chairman Cedric Kuwaninvaya’s childhood memory of waking up early, running to a stream where he bathed, and racing back home before the sun came up has lent its name to a three-day celebration of Native American people, culture and traditions.

Chasing the Sun 10K Race and Pow Wow at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., will take place May 1 – 3. It’s hosted by the creators of Native American Basketball Invitational, the first all Native American Basketball tournament certified by the NCAA, in partnership with the Arizona Cardinals, Ak-Chin Indian Community and the University of Phoenix.

Chasing the Sun is the first event of its kind to be held in an NFL stadium, and the general public is welcome and invited to participate in what may well turn out to be the biggest pow wow in the world.

“There is a lot of positive buzz out there for this event,” said Jason Coochwytewa, owner and president of Red Note Inc., the production company promoting the event. “The pow wow community has heard about our event from all over the United States and Canada. We even have participants who are registering at other pow wows for our pow wow. In addition, we also have a wonderful, international head staff. They are the who’s who and the best of the best of the pow wow industry.”


 Larry Yazzie and his wife.

Kuwaninvaya’s childhood memory not only lent its name to the event, but also its intention: good health. He shared his story with NABI Managing Partner Gina Marie Scarpa during a board meeting of the Arizona Commission of Indian Affairs at his Hopi Village of Sipaulovi, also known as Second Mesa, where he recalled how, as a boy growing up in the village, his father would wake him before dawn to run down past peach orchards to a spring where he splashed water on himself, and ran back before the sun came up. Sometimes the sun would rise and he would try to beat it before the rays engulfed his village. His father called it, “Chasing the Sun” and believed the ritual warded off the spirit of laziness. The running encourages and develops physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.

Organizers of NABI’s Chasing the Sun 10K race hope to encourage exercise as a part of daily life to promote health and wellness in Native Americans. The race begins at 5:30 a.m. May 2. The route will be marked by Native American performances and entertainment along the way. First place winners will receive $500, second place winners receive $250 and third place winners receive $125. All 10K recipients will receive a commemorative T-shirt. In addition to the race, the NABI Chasing the Sun one mile Family Health Walk/Run will start at 7:30 a.m. The event is free and open to the public.

The Chasing the Sun Pow Wow will celebrate Native people, culture and traditions, and share the beauty of Native American music and dance with all cultures. The pow wow kicks off Friday, May 1 with grand entry at 7 p.m. Admission is free that night. Admission for Saturday and Sunday is $12 per day; free for seniors over 60 and children under 6.

Pow wow contestants from all over the world will compete for more than $100,000, making Chasing the Sun a definite stop on the national pow wow circuit.

As an added attraction, the Brothers from the Rez motorcycle group will roar into the stadium Saturday ending a special trek from the Gila River Indian Community in support of Chasing the Sun.

The brothers are a group of Native American veterans and friends who support veterans and Indian communities’ efforts to recognize and support veterans.

The group received its name after volunteering as security support for the NAM JAM 2005, an annual event honoring Vietnam veterans, in Tucson. Since 2005, the brothers have served as security and motorcycle escorts for funerals for fallen veterans, welcome home celebrations for vets, and other events such as the Lori Piestewa Memorial and the Ride to the Ruins Rally. The brothers include Lakota, Seminole, Seneca and Diné members in addition to Gila River members.

About 50 to 100 motorcycle riders are expected to participate in the bike run, escorted by the Gila River Police Department. The Red Mountain Riders, a motorcycle group from the Salt River Reservation, will be joining the brothers on their ride to Glendale.

“We are participating in the bike run to educate and support our children,” said Rex Carolin, road captain for Brothers from the Rez. “We are familiar with the Native American Basketball Invitational Foundation and how they help our kids, so we want to support NABI as well.”

Proceeds from the Chasing the Sun 10K and Pow wow will benefit the NABI Foundation, a nonprofit organization that uses basketball to encourage Native American youth to further their education by granting scholarships, creating opportunities for college scholarships and funding college mentor programs to support students through their educational journey. All funds received from the event will be used to create, encourage and support Native American athletes, students and programs.

Chasing the Sun will also feature more than 100 artisans and food vendors. Several hundred pow wow dancers and 10K runners have already registered and the organizers expect hundreds more to show up the day of the events.

There’s been so much buzz and enthusiasm for the event that organizers have already announced the 2nd Annual Chasing the Sun 10K and Pow Wow for April 15 – 18, 2010.

Chasing the Sun 10K and Pow wow is an alcohol-free event. For more information and pre-registration, visit NABI online.