NESPELEM – The Colville Confederated Tribes are joining with Horse Nations Indian Relay Council for a series of races during the 2019 season.

“We look forward to all the HNIRC-accredited races in the 2019 Tour of Champions and the most prestigious Indian Relay Race in the Americas, the Championship of Champions in Walla Walla,” said a tribal announcement.

Events during the 2019 season include the Omak Stampede and World-Famous Suicide Race Aug. 8-11, North Central Washington District Fair in Waterville Aug. 24-25, Ferry County Fair in Republic Aug. 31 to Sept. 2, Okanogan County Fair in Okanogan Sept. 7-8, and the Championship of Champions Sept. 20-22 in Walla Walla.

During the 2018 Indian Relay horse racing season, a Colville team, Northwest Express, won the Championship of Champions with horses Merv, Smoke Dog and Soarin, ridden by Mathew Pakootas Jr., and supported by holder Loren Marchand, team mugger Edward Marchand and team catcher Arnold Abrahamson.

The 2018 Championship of Champions was hosted by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Walla Walla.

“Those who attended this championship Indian Relay race witnessed 40 teams from throughout the United States and Canada participate in this very memorable event,” said Colville Business Council Chairman Rodney Cawston. “We saw many quality horses and talented riders giving their all.

“There were heart-pounding stretch battles, painful losses, and horses and jockeys taking terrifying spills. There is an exciting element of risk with each race.”

Indian Relay Horse Racing is “exciting to watch in person,” said Cawston. “It is always enjoyable watching the horse, rider and their team members work together. The essence of this effective teamwork reveals itself clearly in the post-win evaluation after each race.

“Although it’s the horse and jockey that get over the line, there is a lot more that goes on behind the scenes toward winning these races. It's a lot of work from developing racing strategies to pre-training regimes, transporting horses and feed over hundreds of miles during the racing season. It is positive to see so many friends and family members supporting their teams.”

Horse racing has been a long-standing tradition throughout Indian Country for hundreds of years, he said.

“It was an honor to see our very own tribal member, Mane Pakootas, selected for the 2018 Kirby White Hawk determination award,” Cawston said.

“We cherish our teams that represent the Colville tribes: Little Grizzly Mountain, Little Abrahamson Express, Grizzly Mountain, Arrow Lakes Express, Cayuse Express, Abrahamson Relay, Omak Express, the Northwest Express and all new or uprising teams,” he said.

“There have always been great teams in the Northwest,” said Horse National Indian Relay Council President Calvin Ghost Bear. “For many years those teams traveled out of their area to compete in the championship event. In fact, in the 2017 Championship of Champions, Colville’s own Abrahamson Relay traveled to Montana to take home the win.

“HNIRC is very happy with the support we’ve received in moving the event to Washington.”

Cawston urged people to support Indian Relay teams by attending an event.

“Our riders and their team members need to know that their hard work and efforts matter,” he said. “I would especially like to encourage everyone to attend the races we host on behalf the Colville tribes.”

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