"The town of Gallup in far Western New Mexico likes to style itself as the place where the Indian Southwest begins. Some boosters will also add it's a crossroads of regional culture and history.
Thus in 1922, the Gallup Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial was born. Growing steadily over the years, it now entertains upward of 50,000 visitors each August, one of the largest Native extravaganzas in the Southwest.
I attended my first Ceremonial in 1954 when I was a Texas high-schooler in my teens. Already devoted to things Indian, the event left a lasting impression on me.
I'd managed to wangle a summer job as a chore boy at a Navajo mission outside Fort Defiance, 28 miles northwest of Gallup just across the Arizona line.
The pavement ended there and beyond was the vast undeveloped reservation where the people mainly lived in hogans, traveled on horseback or in covered wagons and spoke only Navajo.
The half-dozen Indian boys, boarders at the mission, did their best to teach me something of their language. That was but one of many activities that kept my head spinning during an adventure-filled summer.
The highlight, though, proved to be the Gallup Ceremonial. Almost the entire population of the mission, some two dozen Anglos and Navajos, streamed in for the opening events.
I had no idea what the day would hold, but I expected to be dazzled and was not disappointed in the end."
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Marc Simmons: Gallup grew into crossroads of Indian culture
(The Santa Fe New Mexican 8/23)
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