SHERIDAN — More than 30 elite teams representing 15 Indian nations from across North America will compete for more than $50,000 in prizes at the All Nations Indian Relay Championships tonight through Sunday.
Teams from across the northwestern plains compete with each other throughout the summer months to earn their place at the championships.
Indian Relay originated on the plains of North America more than 400 years ago, when the horse was an integral part of Native Americans’ daily lives. According to a press release from the Professional Indian Horse Racing Association, the races are not only a demonstration of bravery, courage and amazing horsemanship, but also an important connection to a historical and spiritual element of the culture. Today, riders compete not in the spirit of warfare but for “Native Pride.”
Wearing traditional regalia, six Native American warriors ride bareback around the track at breathtaking speeds. After each lap, riders leap from one galloping horse to another. Three teammates stand at the edge of the track, holding the other two horses while the “mugger” waits to catch the incoming horse as the rider throws away the reins and dismounts at a full gallop. During the exchange, horses may rear up, flip or getaway and the incoming horse may or may not stop.
“It often becomes a classic case of organized mayhem, where one minor error can drastically change the outcome of the race,” the press release from the PIHRA said.
The festivities began Thursday with a silent auction, Calcutta and a traditionally prepared buffalo feast provided by Chairman Darrin Old Coyote and the Crow Nation.
The All Nations Championship relay action will begin tonight. The daily event will consist of six heats on both Friday and Saturday while the teams with the best scores will advance to the finals on Sunday. The three-day show will also feature a “Warriors Race” where warriors make a 100-yard dash, leap upon a waiting horse and race one lap around the track to the finishing line in front of the grandstand. The “Kids Relay Races” will also be run daily. Native American kids relay race on Shetland ponies on a small track in front of the grandstand.
The entire weekend will also showcase authentic Indian art and crafts, native traditions and much more.
The events begin at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Advance pricing on reserved tickets start at $20 with children’s advance tickets starting at $12. Tickets will be available at www.indianrelay.com, the Sheridan Travel and Tourism website, www.sheridanwyoming.org, and at the WYO Theater box office.