Lakota Country Times: Powwow and Indian relay unite for big event in South Dakota

The Black Hills Pow Wow and the Black Hills Indian Relay take place October 7-9, 2016, in Rapid City, South Dakota. Photo by Black Hills Pow Wow

EXCLUSIVE: Pow-Wow and Indian Relays unite in Rapid City
By Brandon Ecoffey
Lakota Country Times Editor

RAPID CITY -- Two of the fastest growing entertainment ventures in Indian Country are partnering to provide Rapid City with an unprecedented weekend of indigenous entertainment.

The Black Hills Pow Wow has established itself as one of the premier stops on the pow-wow circuit. Coming off its most successful years ever, organizers are now looking to bring in even more people by dishing out $100,000 in awards --including $33,000 for the drum contest alone.

"Last year was our largest pow wow ever," said Black Hills Pow Wow Board of Directors President Steven Yellow Hawk. "We expect this year to be even bigger," he added.

In addition to the singing and dancing contest the pow-wow also features a golf tournament, archery contest, traditional hand-game contest, as well as a parade down Main Street in Rapid City and an Art Expo.

The Black Hills Pow Wow and the Black Hills Indian Relay take place October 7-9, 2016, in Rapid City, South Dakota. Image by Professional Indian Horse Racing Association

This year, however, a new game is in town with the announcement last month that the Professional Indian Horse Racing Association would be bringing their show to town on the very same weekend as the Black Hills Pow Wow. It will be the first time that the sport of Indian Relay will have made an appearance in Rapid City and according to organizers the races in Rapid City will feature only the top teams in the sport. The venue for the races will be special as the Black Hills Motor Speedway will be converted from a dirt oval designed for stock cars in to a 1/2 mile horse racing track.

On Friday, Yellow Hawk and PIHRA board of directors member Calvin Ghost Bear met in Rapid City to establish a mutually beneficial relationship between the the two organizations "that will help to promote and grow both events," said Calvin Ghost Bear during the meeting.

"The board is all in with the Indian Relays coming to town. We think the horse races and the pow-wow will compliment each other," said Yellow Hawk.

The pow-wow was already expected to grow as a result of the addition of southern style dancing and singing contests. In the world of competitive pow-wow, contests have been roughly divided up by region and category. The Black Hills Pow Wow has until this year had only featured northern style categories but as the event has grown so will the completions.

The two events are being run by separate organizations, but both Ghost Bear and Yellow Hawk say that having the events on the same weekend will give fans an opportunity to take in both experiences.

"We wanted to coordinate our races around the Pow-Wow so that everyone who comes to Rapid City will have an opportunity to go to our races and still make it to the grand entries," said Ghost Bear. "When we originally planned this we wanted to make sure that we didn't compete with the Pow-wow. What we want is for both events to feed off each other by bringing new crowds to the city," he added.

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The sport of Indian Relay has been around for generations in Indian Country, but it wasn't until recently that both riders and horses have fallen under the jurisdiction of a singular regulatory body. The creation of the Professional Indian Horse Racing Association has resulted in a season long series of races that ends with the culmination of a grand champion in Billings, MT at the MetraPark Grandstands Sept. 22-25. Ghost Bear said that fans and participants in Indian relay will travel from across the country to attend the races.

"I just had a team from Canada give me a call and ask how they can qualify for Rapid City," he said. "These teams will bring their families and multiple horses along with them," he added.

Along with events like the Lakota Nation Invitational the Black Hills Pow Wow brings millions of dollars from Indian Country directly to the Black Hills where it is spent at hotels and businesses alike.

The addition of a weekend of Indian Relays hosted at the Black Hills Motor Speedway will provide an element of crossover appeal to the non-Native community has been drawn to the events in other parts of the country.

"This thing is getting big, really big," said Ghost Bear referring to the new sport that has found a home during fairs and rodeos all across Indian Country.

Both events will kick off October 7-9, 2016 in Rapid City. Please visit PIHRA at and the Black Hills Pow Wow at

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at

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