102nd Ceremonial | August 2-11, 2024
The Gallup Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial is one of New Mexico’s oldest annual events. Launched on September 28, 1922, organizers established the event to showcase Native American art, to promote Native American Culture, and to preserve Native American heritage.
Gallup was a remote, coal mining town on the Santa Fe Railroad line at the time; however, tourism was a critical consideration from the beginning. The railroad still dominated the west in 1922, transporting a growing number of travelers to previously isolated destinations, like Gallup. However, that changed in 1926, with the completion of Route 66. Car travel became more common, ushering in the age of the “Great American Road Trip.”
History of Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial
The 1922 Ceremonial was a small, community affair, attended primarily by Gallup locals, Navajo and Zuni artisans and dancers, and traders from the area. Dancers were paid a silver dollar. Attendees pulled into Lyons Memorial Park, circling their cars around bonfires, with the headlights illuminating the dancers. A large tent was erected next to the parking area for artisans and traders selling Native American jewelry, pottery, and handwoven rugs. Today, the nightly dances and art market are still integral to the Ceremonial.
With financial backing from the community and the Santa Fe Railroad, attendance grew throughout the 1920s, with Route 66 providing more access to visitors and travelers in the late 20s. Whereas the Great Depression devastated the national economy in the 1930s, Gallup, as a coal mining town, was somewhat insulated. America still ran on coal and the coal mines kept the community employed throughout the Depression. As a result, the Ceremonial continued unfettered, with additional tribes joining the event every year.
Inter-Tribal Ceremonial Today
Over the last century, this unique event has continued to evolve and expand, encompassing tribes from Arizona, California, the Midwest, Mexico, and beyond. Held annually at Red Rock Park, just east of Gallup, the 9-day event includes musical performances, rodeo, food, vendors, parades, Ceremonial Queen and Tiny Tot Pageants, a juried art show and contest, an artisan’s market, a 5k run/walk, two nights of Powwow, Navajo song & dance, a film festival, storytelling, and more.
The original parade was more of an arrival procession. Participants from the Navajo Nation and the Pueblo of Zuni arrived for Ceremonial on horseback or driving horse-drawn carriages. The reliance on horses and foot travel allowed the parade to survive World War II, when other parades around the country were canceled to preserve gasoline.
The current parade features Native American marching bands and floats, like many modern-day parades; however, Native American dancers are still the focus of the procession, with dance troupes and individuals pausing to dance in the intersections and along the parade route.
The original Ceremonial included a rodeo, though it was very different from today’s version. In fact, it wasn’t a rodeo as we define “rodeo” today. It was more a series of Native American competitive events, like foot races and horsemanship.
The races continue in the form of 5k and 10k walk/runs, but the contemporary rodeo includes eight standard events: Bareback, Steer Wrestling, Breakaway, Saddle Bronc, Tie Down Roping, Team Roping, Barrel Racing, and Bull Riding. They also added several crowd favorites, like the Wild Horse Race, Hide Race, Pony Express Race, Ladies Steer Riding, Woolly Riding, Fry bread Pan Throwing, and Buffalo Riding.
The rodeo is open to anyone, offering both junior and women’s events. Typically, there is a mix of pro and amateur riders, though the “amateurs” are formidable in this region. Many competitors come from ranching families, with four to five generations of rodeo stars. One of my favorites in the 2023 competition was a school bus driver from Gallup. He stuck to the horse like a burr on every ride, despite riding with a full back brace and injured arm on Day 2. That was the cowboy with yellow school buses on his chaps. Nice touch.
The art at Inter-Tribal is impressive, showcasing artists across multiple genres: woodworking, stone working, painting, weaving, jewelry, and pottery. There are arts and crafts vendors in the courtyard outside the exhibition hall, but the most impressive treasures are inside the exhibition hall, with incredible, award-winning art at surprisingly low prices.
PowWow & Night Performance
The pow wow grand entry showcases vibrant regalia. Dancers of all ages, from multiple tribes, enter the arena, taking seats in a large circle around a central dance area. Whereas most dances seen at powwows today are social dances, the dancing may have had different meanings and purposes in the past.
In general, dances associated with ceremonies are typically not open to the public and cameras/video is forbidden. However, Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial allows photography and video.
The tribes involved in the night performances include the Aztec, White Mountain Apache, Southern Cheyenne, Chickasaw, Comanche, Hopi, Navajo, Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan Pueblo), Pima, Sioux, Taos Pueblo, Totonac Voladores from Mexico, the Cellicion Dancers from Zuni Pueblo, the Kallestewa from Zuni Pueblo, the Olla Maidens from Zuni Pueblo, and more (depending on year).
Inter-Tribal Ceremonial Pageant
Young women compete to become the Miss Gallup Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial Queen every year. The winner serves as an ambassador for both the Ceremonial and Native American and Indigenous cultures for a year. The Little Miss Ceremonial Pageant features 5-6 year old native children showcasing their talents, charm, and wit.
285 S. Boardman Ste A
Gallup, New Mexico 87301
825 Outlaw Rd.
Gallup, New Mexico 87301
There are lots of hotel and motels available in Gallup, including several national chains.
- Historic Hotel El Rancho – (505) 863-9311
History and charm on Route 66.
- Comfort Suites – (505) 488-0102
Impressive Veteran’s Memorial throughout the lobby and conference room.
Red Rock Park facilities include two campgrounds (Main and West) with electric and water hookups, picnic areas, and on-site bathrooms and showers. There is also a Post Office located in the Main Campground. Reservations are required, for more information please call (505) 722-3839 or email the Campgrounds. The Red Rock Park Office is open Monday through Friday from 8 am to 4 pm. On weekends, please leave a voicemail on the office phone.
McGaffey campground is located in what was once the historic town of McGaffey, a railroad logging and sawmill community. The campground was built in 1937. It is west of the Continental Divide in the Zuni Mountains, at an elevation of approximately 8,000 feet. Mature ponderosa pine trees provide scenic settings and shade, while small hills provide some privacy. There is a volunteer host on site. Follow the road past the entrance, staying to the right to access the Oso and Page overnight sites.
Quaking Aspen Campground is a beautiful campground near Fort Wingate. Located in the shade of a mature Ponderosa pine forest, the campground offers relief from the summer heat. Open May through September, enjoy summer nights in the Cibola National Forest. There are 20 campsites available for tents or small campers less than 22 feet in length, as well as a small day-use group picnic site. Enjoy the beautiful scenery and easy access to many miles of nearby hiking and mountain biking trails.