District 7 hosts annual Mustering-In Day Celebration
September 19, 2016
Gila River Indian News
With their eyes to the sun, a couple dozen veterans saluted the flags at the District 7 Service Center while Guy Innis of the Pee Posh Veterans Association played taps on a silver bugle.
The Mustering-In Day Celebration is an annual family fun day that takes place in District 7, but its primary focus is to commemorate the selfless act of 94 Pee Posh and 88 O’otham, who volunteered for U.S. military service in 1865.
With regular Army soldiers withdrawn to fight the Civil War in the east, the O’otham and Pee Posh joined a number of local Mexican and white volunteers in signing up to defend the area from increasing Apache raids. By joining the military as volunteers, rather than typical recruitment methods, they were “mustered into” service.
The mustering-in of those volunteers on Sept. 2, 1865 established the first Arizona Army National Guard.
One hundred fifty-one years later, people of the Gila River Indian Community paused in a moment of silence to honor those volunteers and remember the countless O’otham and Pee Posh who have given themselves to military service in the century and a half since.
Mustering-In Day began with an early morning 2-mile fun run/walk and a parade down 83rd Avenue at 9 a.m.
As the temperature approached 100 degrees, veterans offered a 21-gun salute and a flag-raising ceremony.
Despite the heat of the day, the District 7 Park opened up to a flurry of activities while volunteers handed out free, ice-cold water to guests.
In the shade of the large ramada, Lt. Gov. Monica Antone thanked the crowd for attending.
“I just want to thank the helpers, the volunteers, and all the employees that make this happen every year,” she said. “I always say that these mountains around us are what blesses us and keeps our community united. … All I ask is for all of you to enjoy yourself today.”
Jennifer Pahona of District 7 recited an oral history of Mustering-In Day to remind everyone of the service and protection the community’s ancestors provided in the Valley.
The presentation was followed by a set of traditional O’otham songs performed by GRIC-based dance group Achem A’al.
On the ball field to the southeast, four softball teams competed in a round-robin tournament.
On the adjacent ball field, visitors browsed vendor tents selling jewelry and novelties. To the east, children boarded small, dizzying carnival rides and jumped in a bouncy house.
Inside the D7 building, Community members took advantage of the air conditioning and watched the pool tournament, organized by D7’s favorite billiards player, Doreen Sunn.
After a free lunch, catered by Diana Johnson Catering, families made their way toward the Service Center to pick up their commemorative T-shirts and watch the Bird Dancing competition.
Three groups of singers kept the dancers moving: The North Valley Bird Singers (Chemeuevi) of California, Robert Ameelyenay & Company of Gila River, and Bird Dancing and Singing by the River of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
The evening closed out with an up-tempo chicken scratch dance with music by Gertie and the T.O. Boys.