Indian Country Today

The Indian Horse Relay, hosted by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, is a spectacle.

It’s the ultimate display of Indigenous horsemanship and it takes place south west of Minneapolis.

“If you haven't heard about relay, you should look it up. And if you're ever in Minnesota you should come to Canterbury Park Indian Horse Relay, hosted by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community,” Indian Relay coordinator Andy Vig said.

On Aug. 24-26, 16 teams competed from the Dakotas, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming and Alberta, Canada.

Women and men competed in the horse relay, where bareback riders race around the track on one horse before leaping off the horse and hopping onto another.

“We have a women's relay now where we have two horses and we do one exchange,” said Hailey Vigen, Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation.

This year the Oglala Sioux Brew Crew won the championship.

“It takes a lot of practice and confidence in your team that you can work together. And then now being acquainted with these horses, knowing horses, you know, like we've been riding with horses since we were little boys. They're like these, these are really high strung animals, these thoroughbreds,” said Allison Red Crow, Blackfeet.

Muggers are the other team members and their job is to make sure the rider makes it on the horse. The horses are bred to race.

Cody Big Tobacco, Blackfeet, rides for the Old Sun Team. It’s part of his heritage.

“To be a role model for the kids back at home and I'll show them they can go places with their horses and anything they put their mind to,” Big Tobacco said.

On Tuesday, Pikunii Express from the Blackfeet Nation won the first heat, with the Oglala Sioux Brew Crew winning heat 2.

On Wednesday, the Brew Crew won the women’s race, followed by repeat wins by Pikunii in heat 1 and Brew Crew in heat 2.

After the Brew Crew landed the championship on the final day, the Blackfeet team Starr School won the consolation bracket. 

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