Seeking to take advantage of a captive audience, all 22 tribes in the state of Arizona are expected to be represented at an American Indian Village as part of the 2015 Super Bowl XLIX in Phoenix. Even though it’s two years out, planning by the Arizona American Indian Tourist Association is already underway.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to get the Indian country message out to the thousands who will attend the football championship,” says Donovan Hanley (Navajo), current Tourist Association president. The Village, one of the association’s largest collaborative efforts, showcases the sights, sounds and flavors of Native dance, music, arts and crafts, and food—a slice of tribal life.
“We set up an Indian Village during the 1996 and 2008 NFL Super Bowls in Phoenix and drew 20,000 attendees,” said past AAITA President Rory Majenty (Yavapai). Another 8,000 visitors enjoyed the experience during the 2012 Centennial.
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The Indian Village Returns to Arizona (Centennial Celebration)
Although plans are not yet in place for 2015, much of the color and pageantry of last year’s Centennial should re-appear at the Super Bowl—displays like a replica of a Navajo hogan, a traditional Hopi house, and a Salt River Pima-Maricopa round house; demonstrations of traditional piki bread-making; performances by gourd singers accompanied by aboriginal instruments; dancers performing the Pal’hik Mana (Water Maiden) and the Eagle Dance; artists who will show how pottery is made from the collection of the clay to the finished product—everything is on the table in current discussions.
“This is a great venue to market Indian tourism to a captured audience and to educate visitors of the growth and abilities of Arizona’s native peoples,” said Majenty. “We’re a big part of this state and lay claim to a large part of its history and identity.”
And that includes the sport of football too. “The Indian and the NFL are not separate entities,” says Raphael Bear (Yavapai). “Native American gridiron star Jim Thorpe was one of the first Commissioners when the National Football League was started. We have an opportunity here as a tourist organization for American Indians to let the world know we’ve always been a part of this sports scene. A smart card player plays the strongest cards in his hand and the Thorpe connection is a trump card for us to hold during the Super Bowl.”
“I know people aren’t going to just stop into the Village and then make plans to vacation in Indian Country,” says Hanley. “This kind of focused concentration takes years and years to become truly effective, but an authentic Indian Village can plant a bug to spur further interest in all we have to offer in the state.
“While many out-of-state football fans may just fly in and fly out to count kickoffs and savor the touchdowns, we expect regional attendees to visit the Village both before and after the game and feel if we tantalize all the sensory options with our exhibits and entertainment, it will peak further interest in Arizona’s Indian country.”