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Indian Relay Season Off and Running

The first Indian Relay races of the season kicked off in Buffalo, Wyo., this past weekend. (Diana Volk)
The first Indian Relay races of the season kicked off in Buffalo, Wyo., this past weekend. (Diana Volk)
June 14, 2016

BUFFALO, Wyo. - The first Indian Relay Races of the season kicked off in Buffalo, Wyo., this past weekend.

Twenty adult teams competed in what has been called America's "first extreme sport," where riders dressed in traditional regalia leap from one moving horse to another along a half-mile track.

Gary Fellers, director of the Professional Indian Horse Racing Association, says the sport, which dates back more than 400 years, is a growing economic driver for some 16 Native American tribes.

"This is an opportunity that is tied in with families and family values, and traditional values," Fellers says. "And people love to see it; it's the most exciting entertainment you've ever seen."

Teams representing the Blackfeet, Crow, Nakota and Oglala Lakota Sioux nations competed before a capacity crowd for $50,000 in prize money and points toward September's championship races.

Dustin Kruger with the Silver Mountain Team took first place in the adult relay, representing the Crow Nation. The Buffalo event also featured races in women's and warrior categories, along with kids' and junior relay races.

Fellers says each gathering helps connect elders with young people to share the history of the relay tradition, and all family team members have a role to play in the races.

He adds the professional association is working toward creating summer camps on reservations where kids can learn and practice the sport.

"And it can be a healthy alternative to some of the very unhealthy opportunities that exist for young people all over the place, but in particular, on the reservations," Fellers says.

The next official races are set to take place at this weekend's Horse Spirit Indian Relay in southern Alberta, Canada.

The All Nations Indian Relay Championship will be held in Billings, Mont., the last weekend in September.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY