GRIC Royalty Hosts Winter Gathering
February 3, 2023
Gila River Indian Community royalty and over 160 youth and families came together for an evening filled with traditional workshops, games, songs and storytelling at the Mul-Chu-Tha Fairgrounds in Sacaton on Jan. 21.
The Winter Gathering served as the first platform-focused event of the year for Miss Gila River Kelsey Martinez and Jr. Miss Gila River Eliana Rhodes. Miss Gila River First Attendant Gabrielle Garcia and Jr. Miss Gila River First Attendant Caiden Lewis also joined the event to assist.
“Overall, it was very good vibes,” said Martinez. Her platform focuses on implementing traditional teachings for GRIC youth while finding balance between the modern lifestyle.
Martinez and Rhodes hosted two of the workshops made available to pre-registered participants.
“We led the beaded loop earrings and beaded bracelets [workshops], open to both male and female,” said Martinez, who shared the history of O’otham trading mesquite wood for beads.
Additional workshops included Savkud (gourd) making for men, presented by Raincloud Thompson, a demonstration on Komai - a traditional game for women presented by Doria Garcia, president for the Ak-Chin Youth Council, and Gigihikum susk (cowhide sandals) for women, presented by Martinez.
“For me, the gigihikum susk was a way for me to be connected to my ancestors,” Martinez said. “When I wear sandals, it’s a reminder for me that I am comfortable and that I’m protected.”
She expressed that she wanted more youth to come out and see the process of creating a savkud, hoping they may get inspired to learn and share traditional songs.
During the event, GRIC artists Chadwick Pasqual, Tiffany Enos, Amber Moristo, and Angelo Cortez showcased their live painting skills. Arts and crafts vendors were also on site.
Visiting tribal royalty included Miss Indian Arizona Sistine Lewis, and her Second Attendant Emile Eich, and Miss Tohono O’odham Nation Eleni Cachora.
Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis also provided a welcome address for everyone that evening. Gov. Lewis commended this year’s GRIC Royalty, applauded their efforts throughout their reign, and wished them continued success.
Additionally, Gov. Lewis participated in the gigihikum susk workshop with Miss Gila River Kelsey Martinez.
The Ranch Mobile Eatery provided a hearty dinner for everyone in attendance as the sun set in the evening.
Later, participants bundled up in the chilly weather to hear from former Lt. Gov. Robert Stone, who shared stories of his time growing up in the Community.
The event closed out with traditional songs and dances. Bird songs and traditional basket dancing took place, and then the Akimel O’odham Pee-Posh Youth Council shared social songs and invited everyone to join in for a social and giveaway dance.
“I feel our winter gathering went great and I’m glad everyone came out to share the night with us, even if it was cold,” said Rhodes, “It was a goal to showcase our O’odham and Pee Posh culture at the event and I think everyone who helped did a great job doing so, I hope we have more events like this because our Himdag is something we need to carry on for future generations.”