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Indian Relay racing a welcome return

There are many ways for Native culture to be preserved and all of them contribute to this vital function.

That’s why the return of Indian Relay racing at the Chippewa Downs track this Saturday and Sunday is such a positive effort. Last year Chippewa Downs hosted its first ever Indian Relay race and there is great excitement and high expectations for attendance this year.

Last year’s event was an obvious success. The total purse has been raised from $6,000 to $25,000. Last year’s races attracted the largest crowd ever for horse racing in Belcourt. Expectations are for 14 to 15 teams to compete in this year’s Indian Relay races. The Indian Relay will be staged following the regular racing card at Chippewa Downs. Sunday’s final run of the Indian Relay will pay $10,000 to win.

For those unfamiliar with Indian Relay races, have a look at Minot Daily News writer Kim Fundingsland’s excellent story from Tuesday’s newspaper (www.minotdailynews.com/news/local-news/2019/06/tradition-excitement-at-indian-relay-race/).

Indian Relay racing isn’t just an historic fast-paced incredibly exciting sport preserving and celebrating hundreds of years of tradition. Tradition is emphasized. Riders are required to be traditional in appearance.

“These guys wear headdresses and war paint,” Stuart LaFountain, Turtle Mountain Chippewa tribal councilman, told Minot Daily News this week. “Even the horses are painted up. We’ve got some world champions coming for this. We’ll have the best of the best at our track.”

Traditional garb and painted horses are an essential component of the preservation of heritage. A parade of riders will be held where the crowd gets involved by cheering for their favorites in different categories such as regalia worn and traditional horse appearance.

MDN strongly supports efforts at preserving Native heritage in North Dakota – and all states. This exciting event accentuates that there are many ways to do just that.

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