Indian relay teams to race in Rapid City this October
Indians aboard sleek paints, thoroughbreds, and Quarter horses race around a half-mile track, then leap from their initial mount onto yet another fast steed, as the first horse is gathered up by a mugger, while the team of second horse and rider take off for another lap at breakneck speeds. This happens yet another time with a third speedy horse but the same rider the entire time. This is the sport of Indian Horse Racing and it may be happening at a track near you.
The Professional Indian Horse Racing Association (PIHRA) is hosting its first event in Rapid City, South Dakota, Oct. 7-9 at Black Hills Speedway.
“Rapid City is an area in the past that has a long, rich history of horse racing at Central States Fair, a lot of jockeys that have been around flat tracking in the ‘70s,” said Calvin Ghost Bear, a PIHRA Director. “We want to revive the race in our area. We can’t build a track, but we can bring in the relay.”
Several fairs host Indian Relay Races, some PIHRA-sanctioned, others not. The Rapid City event is a larger-scale event with the option to draw and seat a greater crowd.
“Races can bring more people into your community. PIHRA events bring more teams, the best teams. I think this is the first of many races [at Rapid City] and I hope the event will meet everyone’s expectations,” Calvin said.
The event will be hosted in conjunction with the Black Hills PowWow which will also be Oct. 7-9 at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City.
“With this event being during PowWow, it brings native and non-native people,” Calvin said. “We celebrate not only our culture, but celebrate all cultures. It provides a showcase to those who are race enthusiasts.”
“The Professional Indian Horse Racing Association was formed to promote a healthy, sporting event for Native Americans to enjoy, participate in and help build…It is the fondest wish of all the PIHRA ‘Family’ that Indian Relay Races will promote hope, self-respect, dignity, economic opportunity and harmony amongst the Native Community and that it will inspire all who participate whether as a spectator, race team, family member, or supporter to do their best to live their lives as their ancestors did – proud, family-oriented, self-sufficient, and spiritual beings living in harmony with nature and each other,” said Nancy Harrison, PIHRA Media Coordinator.
South Dakota currently has five PIHRA teams, that are made up of four men: one rider, one mugger, and two holders. The teams are: Lakota War Path, Blue Moons, Dancing Warrior, Willow Creek, and Brew Crew.
“Some indian racers choose not to become PIHRA members; they just do the little fairs and call it good. If a team thinks they’re competitive enough, they’ll travel to PIHRA events,” Calvin said. “PIHRA members race in Montana, Wyoming, and throughout the midwest and face tougher teams. PIHRA is the toughest of the tough. They run against teams from Montana, Idaho, Washington, Wyoming, Canada, northwestern loner tribes in Canada.”
Calvin’s son Don “Cubby” Ghost Bear is the owner, manager, team captain and mugger of Lakota War Path, the team that won the Fallon County Fair Indian Relay at Baker, Montana, Aug. 19-21.
“Since PIHRA originated, it has taken racing to whole new level, where guys can make a living at this. They help promote and support teams,” Calvin said. “These teams are running for over $10,000. I remember in the earlier days running when we were running for $500.”
Up to 36 teams will be accepted to The All Nations Indian Relay Championships hosted Sept. 22-25 at MetraPark Grandstands in Billings, Montana. Teams qualify by an accumulation of points throughout the year at varying PIHRA-sanctioned events and finalist teams are competing for cash prizes totaling more than $75,000 and award jackets and buckles.
“Relay is at a height where its only going to get more popular and grow,” Calvin said.
On http://www.ProfessionalIndianHorseRacingAssocation.com, the origins of indian horse racing are outlined.
“Different cultures have different oral histories of its origins and most likely they are all true representations. To one tribe, relay was used as war games, to another, a relay strategy to hunt the buffalo, to another, a way to outrun the wild horses to enable their capture. Whatever the origins of relay the importance of it and of the horse to the plains cultures cannot be understated…relay provided the measure to test the horse, the rider, and the team,” the website says.
Indian Horse Racing is a fast-paced and riveting sport for an audience of all cultures and it is growing in popularity.
“There are few rules in Indian relay and on many tracks anything goes. PIHRA has added rules to protect the safety of the horse and rider but relay is considered by all an extreme sport and the ultimate test of bravery, courage, athleticism and oneness between the horse and rider,” the PIHRA website states.
“We are seeing more dedication to the sport, more breeding and buying of better horses,” Calvin said. “Being an extreme sport, it has gotten to the point where it’s even more competitive.”