Gallup’s Intertribal Celebration Celebrates its 100th Anniversary in August How to Visit

Gallup offers exciting outdoor adventures, set in gorgeous red rock cliffs along historic Route 66. Off I-40 in western New Mexico near the Arizona border, Gallup exudes Old World traditions, rich culture, and indigenous Native American art. One of the oldest Native American Heritage celebrations marks its 100th year. Here’s how you can visit.

Navajo Song and Dance, Family of Dancers at Twin Lakes

Image credit: Gallup’s Intertribal Celebration

Gallup’s festive cross-tribal lineup for 2022

Gallup’s Intertribal Party celebrates its centenary (100 years) August 4-14 at Red Rock Park in Gallup, New Mexico. The New Mexico Experience has been held annually since 1922 to showcase, promote, educate, and preserve the diversity of Native American and Native American performing arts, cultural heritage, jewelry, and handicrafts, raising the profile of Gallup worldwide.

The parade begins each night with a Native American and tribal parade, including the Zuni Olla Maidens, which are exclusive to women who dance while balancing pottery on their heads. To name a few, Navajo Song and Dance from Tohatchi, New Mexico, Hopi Hooyapi Dancers (from Hopi, Arizona) and four generations of Zuni Dancers perform every night.

The festive celebration includes an artisan market, food vendors, the Four Winds stage, a ceremonial queen and tribal kings meet and greet, and an evening parade. You will experience songs and dances with a special performance on the first Friday evening by Alaskan Pamyua of the Yup’ik tribe. Experience HAKA: Maori Cultural Experience from New Zealand on Saturday evening.

Pro tip: You can buy one-day admission tickets or get the all-inclusive ticket package for August 5-10 which includes two-day general admission to “One World Beat” at Red Rock Park and two-day parking. Also includes general admission to the 3-Day Ceremonial Film Festival, ceremonial Miss Gallup Intertribal Queen Dinner, and general admission to the Miss Gallup Talent Show and Crowning.

Pearl Sunrise, former ceremonial queen

Pearl Sunrise, former ceremonial queen

Image credit: Gallup’s Intertribal Celebration

Visit Gallup’s Intertribal Celebration

The festive film festival brings filmmakers, actors and audiences together to promote Indigenous and Native American storytelling through short and full films.

The festive Miss Gallup Intertribal Pageant includes a dinner to honor the outgoing queen, a silent auction/sweepstakes, interviewing the contestants, a public speaking contest, and entertainment. The following evening in the final round, you’ll be entertained by a featured artist and crowned the new Miss Gallup among the festive tribes.

Additional Centenary Celebration events include rodeo action, art show and competition, virtual artisan market, 5km track/run, parades, powwow, Navajo song and dance, documentaries, and more citywide activities.

Early 1930s photo of the tribal procession

Early 1930s photo of the tribal procession

Image credit: Gallup’s Intertribal Celebration

History of Gallup’s festive gathering of tribes

Two directions of travel paved the way for the creation of the Ceremonial Tribal Gallup in September 1922. The Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad headed across the American West, delivering travelers to a growing number of Harvey homes. Car travel along Route 66 heralded the great American road trip. Many of the early Gallup merchants, who ran businesses of various goods of Native American art, attracted more tourists to visit and stay in Gallup.

Travelers drove to Lyon Memorial Park north of the railroad and circled their cars around a group of bonfires for that first festive year. They aimed at their headlights to watch Native American dancers perform social versions of traditional dances, rarely seen outside the reserve. Organizers paid the dancers a silver dollar to participate in that first year, while dealers sold Native American artwork, silver jewelry, and carpets in a circus-style tent nearby. Today, the Native American Art and Dance Night Market is still part of the festivity.

Native Americans relied on merchants to market their goods and handicrafts, and today, the Gallup Richardson Trading Post celebrates its 108th anniversary. In the early days, the parade was a parade of arrival, Native Americans in carriages and horse-drawn carriages from the Navajo Nation and its surroundings. Early rodeos were the Native American games and foot racing that evolved into today’s 5K and 10K races. Organizers built an amphitheater in 1923 to expand viewing.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the celebration opened to Native American groups outside New Mexico, including the Plains tribes from Mexico. Today, the celebration invites tribes from Arizona, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Washington and across New Mexico to the nightly dances. Generations of families from dancers, rodeo artists, weavers, jewelers, bakers, and celebratory queens participate in the celebration.

ceremonial parade dancers

ceremonial parade dancers

Image credit: Gallup’s Intertribal Celebration

Gallup’s Tribal Celebration Continues For Another 100 Years

“Today’s Gallup intertribal celebration credits its longevity to artists who preserve culture and participants who want to hold on to their heritage and keep their mother tongue alive,” says Melissa Sanchez, CEO.

The event includes a world-famous art market and Native American dancers dressed in their dazzling authentic costumes that are the heart of the festivity. Today’s parades feature Native American marching bands, floats, historic cars, and dancers. Rodeaux are more traditional today with eight standard events such as the barrel and tug race, unique touches like the Pony Express, and even a fried bread toss competition.

Make your travel plans to witness the most authentic tribal celebration in Gallup, August 4-14. My favorite memories are the picture-perfect sunsets across the red rocky cliffs as colorful backdrops for the dancers.

Pro tip: Staying at El Rancho Hotel, a historical reminder of the 66 days old route. El Rancho serves steaks, hamburgers, enchiladas, fajitas, tacos, tamales and a thirst-quenching margarita.

Learn more about the beautiful sites and experiences in New Mexico, including:

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