Navajo Nation Band returns to entertain Ééhániih Day festivities
With Ééhániih Day this weekend on the Arizona side, the committee is busy putting the final touches on the 50th annual celebration, during which attendees will see the Navajo Nation band perform and march in the time-honored, mini parade of elders.
“They used to have the entire Navajo Nation Band,” Mabelle Drake Hueston said in an earlier interview with the Navajo Times. “They used to stay at our house.”
“Back then we were so little, we didn’t understand who they were,” added Mildred Cleo Todd, Hueston’s sister. “We always had a shed right here for them to sit.”
It was during the sixties and seventies that the late béésh bąąh dahsi’ání Harold Drake Sr. would invite the band here for Ééhániih Day, formerly Pioneer Day.
Today, Drake’s daughters – Hueston and Todd – can recall the early event, during which the band would be situated under the chaha’oh just west of the event field.
“That used to be their (brush arbor),” Todd said. “It used to be a real chaha’oh with cottonwood tree sides. We used to fix them up a week before they came.”
But it’s been decades since the band was invited to the celebration. Thanks to Atene’s letter of request, the band will take part in the golden jubilee.
“It’s going to be a full schedule,” Naatsis’áán Chapter manager Lorena Atene said.
Festivities will begin tomorrow evening, July 31, with entertainment by Latigo country band. Festivities will continue the next day, Aug. 1, with a flag-raising ceremony
at 6 a.m. and end that evening around 4 p.m. Though the lineup of activities – fun run and walk, horse racing, purse run, tug of war et al. – are still the same, there are a handful of new ones.
For those wanting to do a challenge and to test their endurance, Diné ultramarathon runner Harold Bennally from LeChee, Ariz. will be directing the inaugural
Moccasin Run, a 24-mile relay to the peak of Navajo Mountain.
And for those wanting to learn about horse gentling and horsemanship, Diné equine experts like Gene Shepherd, the cow boss at Padres Mesa Demonstration Ranch in Chambers, Ariz., will be sharing his knowledge.
Also new this year is the Ééhániih Day logo contest, in which seven contestants entered the inaugural competition. The logos were judged July 23 and the winning logo will be announced on Aug. 1. The winner will receive $400.
“The Navajo Nation band … (is) going to be the main attraction,” Atene added.
For some individuals, Ééhániih Day is a tradition on horseback and on foot.
Shepherd and his trail riding family for the past six years have been riding on horseback to the annual celebration from Chambers. This year, Shepherd’s group are paying tribute to the Diné elders, past and present.
As of today, July 30, Shepherd’s group will be camping on Double Deck Mesa near Ts’ahbiikin, Ariz.
Following in his late grandfather’s footsteps, Dan Yazzie Begay Sr. from Narrow Canyon, Ariz. usually makes his annual 45-mile journey on foot as well. Last year, he made the trek with 28 hikers. Begay normally participates in the foot races too.
As of today, Naatsis’áán Chapter officials said they are still preparing for the celebration but they are ready to welcome people to the event.
There will be a $5 entrance fee and Ééhániih Day celebration-goers are encouraged to dress in their traditional outfits.
Information: Naatsis’áán Chapter, 928-672-2915.