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News Briefs: Phoenix Indian Center’s AZ Excellence in Leadership Awards


The Phoenix Indian Center announced the winners of the 2021 Arizona American Indian Excellence in Leadership Awards.

This annual recognition celebrates individuals and organizations in Arizona who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and commitment to the advancement, promotion, and development of the American Indian community, or have provided significant contributions to the American Indian economy.

“Each year we have an exceptional group of honorees who have made a tremendous impact in the American Indian community, and this year is no exception,” said Phoenix Indian Center CEO Patricia Hibbeler. “We invite the entire Arizona community to join us virtually in celebrating and recognizing the awardees.”

Submitted | Mark Peterman
Ethel Branch

Ethel Branch, interim director of the Navajo & Hopi Families Relief Fund, was named woman of the year.

James Ridingin, Pawnee, won the Kent C. Ware Lifetime Achievement award.

Barbara Poley, Laguna/Hopi, won the Phyliss J. Bigpond Lifetime Achievement award.

Frances Stout, Tonono O’odham, won Spirit of the Heard award.

Christopher Sharp, Colorado River Indian Tribe, won man of the year and Raul Mendoza, Tohono O’odam, won friend of the community.

The Medicine Wheel Riders and the Rez Riders were named volunteers of the year.

Titan Facility Services, with CEO David Beaver, Winnebago, was named business of the year.

Named college students of the year were Shay Allison, Navajo, and Trinity Manuelito, Navajo.

Stephen Louis, Navajo, and Angel Polk, San Carlos Apache, were named high school students of the year.

Virtual fair marks summer solstice

WINDOW ROCK – Continuing the great tradition of annual Navajo Nation fairs and celebrations, Yee Ha’ólníi Doo has organized a virtual fair celebrating summer solstice on June 19 and 20.

Annual fairs on the Navajo Nation have strengthened the culture of the Navajo People for over a century.

For Yee Ha’ólníi Doo, celebrating the summer solstice honors the traditional Navajo belief system of preparing the land for the fall harvest.

In the Navajo language, the name for the month of June, Ya’iishjááshchilí, translates to mean “the planting of early crops.”

Yee Ha’ólníi Doo Interim Executive Director Ethel Branch said that one intention of the virtual fair is to plant seeds of hope for the future.

“Our people look forward to our annual fairs as a time to reconnect with relatives and share their stories of the times since they’ve last seen each other,” Branch said. “We want to provide a safe space where we can all virtually celebrate the many events that we’ve grown to love with the Navajo Nation fairs.”

The virtual fair will host events like a baby photo contest, rez ride photo contest, virtual fashion show, cultural performances, a concert featuring Native musicians like Lyla June, and a comedy show on Sunday by the dynamic duo James and Ernie.

Yee Ha’ólníi Doo Deputy Director Cassandra Begay said that the outpouring of support for the event has been inspiring.

The organization of the virtual fair is being led by Wendy Atcitty, Yee Ha’ólníi Doo public health education program manager. If you’re an interested artist or musician, now is the time to secure a slot.

“I’m really happy with the response we’ve had from the many performers who want to take the stage in a safe, responsible way,” Atcitty said. “James and Ernie are hysterical and I’m looking forward to their humor and the laughs they incite from the audience.”

The Virtual Fair Celebrating Summer Solstice begins online on Saturday, June 19, at 12 p.m. (MDT) and runs through Sunday, June 20, at 5 p.m.

All performances will be hosted on Yee Ha’ólníi Doo‘s Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund group page at

Contest and voting events will be hosted at

Information: Wendy Atcitty,


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