Arizona Indian Festival collaborates with Scottsdale’s Western Week

Saturday, February 9, 201, the beautiful tribal royalty line up for a morning welcome and introductions during the Arizona Indian Festival, Scottsdale Civic Plaza. (photo by Geri Hongeva-Camarillo)

Published February 18, 2019

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Arizona American Indian Tourism Association (AAITA) partners with the City of Scottsdale by adding the Arizona Indian Festival to Western Week celebration.

In celebrating the spirit of the west, events include: the 66th Annual Scottsdale Parada del sol Parade, Trail’s End Festival, Western Spirit Gold Palette ArtWalk, Hashknife Pony Express, Arizona Indian Festival and Arizona Native Experience.

AAITA board of directors and members plan for six months to showcase a cultural experience for all visitors, with a combination of traditional arts & crafts, traditional dancing and singing from all Arizona tribes and sharing their unique travel and tourism destinations throughout Native communities in Arizona, there was plenty to do at the Scottsdale Civic Plaza over the weekend.

Men from the Colorado River Indian Tribe called the Black Mountain Bird Singers sing at the Arizona Indian Festival on February 9, 2019 Scottsdale Civic Plaza. (photo by Geri Hongeva-Camarillo)

Founded in 1994, the current board of directors for AAITA includes: Blessing McAnlis-Vasquez, Donovan Hanley, Steve Geiogamah, Amanda June, Dorothy Denetsosie Gishie, Geri Hongeva-Camarillo, Raphael Bear, Roann Carmelo and Carrie Nelson.  Each board member is elected but first they must be a member of AAITA.

A new addition to this year’s Western Week, also coordinated by AAITA is the Arizona Native Experience on February 8th to kick start the Arizona Indian Festival at the Saguaro Hotel in Scottsdale. The Native cuisine experience featured Native chefs like, Twila Cassadore (San Carlos Apache), Mario Renneto Etsitty (Navajo), Felicia Cocotzin Ruiz (Xicana/Tewa) and Freddie Bitsoie (Navajo).

Tickets we sold to attend the Arizona Native Experience, approximately 130 people attended. A special appearance by Gabrial Ayala, guitarist from Pascua Yaqui tribe and Ed Kabotie, musician and artist from Hopi, both played to create festive ambience as guests enjoyed the variety of native cuisine and silent auction.

Artisans from Art of the People shared their talent as they painted at the event. Special guests included; the mayor of Scottsdale, Jim Lane, as well as Becky Blaine, deputy director of Arizona Office of Tourism.


AAITA President, Blessing McAnlis-Vasquez expressed her gratitude to all those involved and their dedication, “Thank you all so very much for making this festival such a success and celebrating Arizona Indian Country with pride.”

The two-day Arizona Indian Festival on February 9 & 10, brought hundreds of people together, some new attendees and many making it an annual event as part of the Western Week activities. It is a time for families to be together, dance, sing, laugh with one another and create new friendships. The festival combines Native food and art. It is a good time to buy genuine Native arts & crafts and eat some Native cuisine such as the famous frybread.

Colorado River tribe, Black Mountain Bird Singers performs as the beautiful tribal royalty dance to their songs at the Arizona Indian Festival on February 9, 2019 Scottsdale Civic Plaza. (photo by Geri Hongeva-Camarillo)

The main stage entertainment included traditional dancing from Gila River, Sekakuku family from Hopi, Black Mountain Bird Singers from Colorado River community, Zuni, Pascua Yaqui Deer Dancers, Martin Sisters from Navajo, Apache crown dancers, Salt River Pima Bird Singing and Dancing group, Hualapai Bird Dancing Group, Ak-Chin Ba’ban Keina Dancers and Guardians of the Grand Canyon Ram dancers from Havasupai.

On Saturday, February 9th it was very cloudy and cold for some, but it did not stop the crowd as they layered with blankets and jackets and waited for the last show, a comedy act by James and Ernie. The duo had not performed in the Phoenix area for nearly five years and with no admission, it was a ‘sold-out free show.’

Steve Geiogamah, AAITA board member expressed his appreciation to all the members and volunteers, “we had a very successful festival, we had over 7,000 attendees over the two-day event and many provided great feedback.”

With twenty-two tribes in the state of Arizona and a lot of tourism traffic throughout the state. Travel destinations for visitors normally involve Native communities, the AAITA board works on promoting and marketing the beautiful places to visit to support tribal economic development and revenue.

For more information about Arizona American Indian Tourism Association and Arizona Indian Festival, visit

Geri Hongeva-Camarillo, AAITA board member since 2008, also the entertainment coordinator for the annual Arizona Indian Festival. 






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