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Kolby KickingWoman 
Indian Country Today

The National Finals Rodeo, one of the largest rodeo events of the year, took place in Las Vegas last week. On the last night of competition, the event honored the Navajo Code Talkers.

Derrick Begay, Navajo, who competed in the team-roping event over the course of the week, escorted United States Marine, and one of the last surviving Navajo Code Talkers, Peter MacDonald onto the arena floor for an honoring and recognition.

MacDonald, 92, serves as the Navajo Code Talker Association president.

The Navajo Nation Council praised the Wrangler Patriot Program and the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association making the recognition of the code talkers and MacDonald happen.

“We are proud that millions of rodeo fans honored our Navajo Code Talkers during the National Finals Rodeo and this elite rodeo organization has acknowledged many Indigneous veterans this year. The Navajo Nation commends the Wrangler Patriot Program for supporting the families of our fallen soldiers and wounded warriors,” Council Delegate Wilson Stewart, Jr. said in the release. “My community was honored Saturday night because we have two grandfathers who served as Navajo Code Talkers - Mr. Jimmy C. Begay and Mr. James C. Begay - from Fort Defiance, Ariz.”

The program was founded in 2009 and raises funds to support veterans and their families.

As for the competition, Begay was joined by fellow Navajo riders Erich Rogers and Danielle Lowman.

Both Begay and Rogers compete in team roping, although not on the same team, and both had solid showings throughout the week.

Begay, a nine-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier, ended the week with four finishes in the top-five; including a first place finish during Round 2. He and his partner ultimately walked away with more than $47,000 in earnings. 

Rogers has one world title under his belt from 2017 and has qualified for the National Finals Rodeo 11-times himself.

He and his partner had three top-five finishes, with a second-place finish on the first night of competition. They earned more than $41,000 over the week.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez tweeted his praise for the men and their effort during the competition.

“Congratulations to Derrick Begay and Erich Rogers for competing hard and showing great sportsmanship at the 2021 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo! They gave it everything they had this year’s NFR and made us proud! Thank you for being an inspiration for our Navajo people! Ahe’hee’”

Lowman competes in breakaway roping. She had a pair each of third-place finishes and fourth-place finishes during her time in Vegas, resulting in more than $8,000 in earnings.

Navajo Nation Budget and Finance Chairman Jamie Henio said in the press release the three are great role models for Native youth and continue a long line of Native athletes participating in rodeo.

“The Navajo Nation applauds our own NFR athletes - Derrick Begay, Erich Rogers, and Danielle Lowman - who are amazing role models for our young people,” Henio said in the release. “They continue the long tradition of competing with the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association and representing the Navajo people on the world stage.”

Full results and highlights of the week can be found at

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