Native American Warriors Bring a Past Way-Of-Life to Modern-Day Spectators

Published September 21, 2018

WALLA WALLA, Wash. — More than 400 years ago, the horse was an integral part of Native Americans’ daily lives and aided in a tribe’s survival. These animals were imperative for a successful buffalo hunt but were also crucial for victories in battle. The importance of this harmonious relationship has been handed down from generation to generation through oral history and, today, has developed into the most exciting and explosive competition between the Indian Nations of the Northern Plains – Indian Relay Horse Nations intensely compete with each other throughout the summer months to earn their place at the Championship of Champions getting underway September 21-23 in Walla Walla, Washington.

Indian Relay appears to have developed independently in different tribes, leading to competitive relays between the nations and America’s first extreme sport. Today, Horse Nations compete against each other not in the spirit of warfare but for the native pride and “bragging rights” of the individual nations. The races are not only a demonstration of bravery, courage and amazing horsemanship but also an important connection to a historical and spiritual element of their culture.

Wearing traditional regalia, six Native American warriors ride bareback around the track at breathtaking speeds. After each lap, riders leap from one galloping horse to another, defying fear and gravity. Three teammates stand at the edge of the track, holding the other two horses while the “mugger” waits to catch the incoming horse as the rider dismounts at a full gallop. During the exchange, horses may rear up, flip or getaway and the incoming horse may or may not stop – it often becomes a classic case of organized mayhem, where one minor error can drastically change the outcome of the race. Once spectators witness this, they feel an intense excitement they never get with any other sport; this is why Indian Relay fans come back year after year.

The Championship of Champions will be held September 21-23, 2018 at the Walla Walla Fairgrounds in Walla Walla, WA. Teams representing more than 15 Indian nations will compete at the 2018 Championships. The teams come from Washington State, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Canada. The tribes represented in relay include Oglala Lakota Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, Blackfeet, Crow, Chippewa, Mandan Arikara (MHA), Shoshone-Bannock, Eastern Shoshone and the Colville Confederated Tribes. The vision of the teams and the entire membership is for relay to become a viable cultural and economic entity on the reservations.

For more information about HNIRC, follow or check out   Facebook For reservations and tickets .

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