35th Annual Native American Connections parade held in Phoenix
October 20, 2017
Roberto A. Jackson
Gila River Indian News
For 35 years the City of Phoenix has been home to a diverse parade that highlights the local Native American heritage in the Valley of the Sun. That tradition continued on Saturday, Oct. 14, in Phoenix with the Native American Connections (NAC) 35th Annual Parade, as 56 entries marched for two miles from 3rd Street & Oak Street to Steele Indian School Park.
Under the theme, “The Colors of Nature’s Beauty,” Native American groups and organizations gathered for one of Phoenix’s longest running spectacles before 3,000-4,000 spectators. Arizona’s tribes are spread all across the state, but for the NAC parade they were all lined up on one street for one day of celebration and unity with representation for tribal leaders, veterans, youth groups, royalty and faith-based groups.
According to NAC this year’s parade was heavily promoted and received a lot of participation thanks to a strong presence on social media.
The Grand Marshal was the Native PFLAG Phoenix Chapter. Native PFLAG Phoenix Chapter is an advocacy and support group for the LGBTQ community and their families, and according to Native PFLAG’s founder Sheila Lopez, it is the only chapter, among 400 PFLAG chapters nation-wide, that is Native American focused. Native PFLAG was joined by Gila River H.O.P.E. group, the GRIC LGBTQ support group. “We really help supporting each other,” said Lopez.
Kelly Haven, who competed in the 90th Annual Scripps National Spelling Bee, was the Junior Grand Marshal.
Just as in year’s past, the annual parade included several GRIC representatives.
Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis, Lt. Gov. Monica Antone, Ira H. Hayes Post 84, Miss Gila River Anissa Garcia and Jr. Miss Gila River Haili Gonzales were among the groups representing the Community along with dance groups and volunteers. GRIC member and U.S. Army veteran Reuben Jenkins was among the many veterans honored.
The Achem A’al Indigenous Traditional Pima Basket Dancers and the Keli Akimel Hua Modk Cudkdam – Gila River Basket Dancers took second and third place, respectively, in the Performance Category.
The fun didn’t end with the parade. Following the procession, spectators convened at the Steele Indian School Park for the grand opening of the Phoenix Indian School Visitor Center. Several tribal dignitaries attended along with City of Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton.