Chief Azul celebrated in Sacaton
Gila River Indian News
Community members gathered on Saturday, Jan. 12, for the fourth annual Chief Azul Day, which happens during the winter solstice. The event was created to recognize and celebrate Chief Antonio Azul who was a veteran and tribal leader. He was considered one of the last traditional chiefs of the Gila River Indian Community.
Community members gathered at the empty lot, just north across from the Matthew B. Juan and Ira H. Hayes Veterans Memorial Park, in Sacaton. The celebration began with a blessing at sunrise and Community members then participated in 2-mile walk/5k run.
After the run/walk, participants gathered back at the lot for incentives and some light refreshments, followed by a procession to the west cemetery where Chief Azul’s gravesite is located. The procession was led by various veterans groups across the Gila River Indian Community followed by GRIC Basket Dancers and some Community members.
Once arriving to the cemetery, everyone gathered around in a circle, military honors were conducted and GRIC Basket Dancers performed. GRIC Governor Stephen R. Lewis said a few words about Chief Azul, emphasizing how the event has become so important to the Community in remembering and honoring their last traditional chief and as a warrior who fought for rights of the Akimel O’otham and Pee Posh and for water rights as well.
Descendants of Chief Azul were in attendance. Pacer Reina was delegated to give a few words on behalf of the family, they thanked the Community for honoring their ancestor through this annual event. Afterwards, Gov. Lewis and the family presented wreaths to Chief Azul’s grave and attendees were welcomed to pay their respects by offering sea salt that was brought by spiritual runners.
The event was coordinated by the Veterans and Family Services Office peer support staff Darrell Whitman and Wesley Rhodes