The biggest show in Indian Country rodeo will be on display this week in Sin City.
More than 350 contestants representing 70-plus tribes from the United States and Canada are in Las Vegas this week for the latest iteration of the Indian National Finals Rodeo. They will be competing for more than $1 million in cash and prizes.
It’s the culmination of a season that features tour and qualifying rodeos over the course of the year. In years past, the INFR organization, based out of Browning, Montana, had contestants qualify through 12 different regions but changed the qualification format due to covid.
Donna Hoyt, Blackfeet, is the general manager for the INFR and says they will stick with the current format before reevaluating the system before the 2024 season.
She’s looking forward to this week’s event and enjoys seeing the contestants come together to put on a show and crown a champion.
“They've all worked very hard,” Hoyt said. “I believe that our members and contestants are one of the hardest working athletes around and get little recognition.”
Hosted at the South Point Equestrian Center, Hoyt expects capacity crowds to fill the 4,600 seat arena.
“For the last couple of years, you know we sold out the last championship rounds and I'm sure we will do it again because Southpoint has been sold out of rooms now for about three weeks,” she said.
Starting Tuesday, each day consists of two performances, starting at 12:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. local time, respectively. There is a buckle ceremony to cap each day, awarding the day's winners and finishes with the championship rounds Saturday.
Rodeo has long been a staple in Indian Country. One of the reasons Hoyt sees it being so big in Native communities is that rodeos are family oriented events.
“We have seniors, juniors, we have grandfathers and we have dads and kids and grandkids that can all go together,” she said. “It’s successful because it's a family sport and everybody can do it together and spend time together as well.”
Although she added one of the few downfalls of trying to break into the rodeo scene is that it can be expensive, with many riders paying their own way. Barrel racing horses, for instance, often sell for north of $25,000.
For those interested in watching over the course of the week, all performances will be streamed on Pluto TV, a free streaming service.
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