It’s that time of the year for rodeo fans, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and Junior National Finals Rodeo. The huge events conclude the season for professional and junior rodeo athletes, only the best in the world compete here for 10 days. Both competitions started on Dec. 6 and end tomorrow in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Natives love rodeo. Many of them have been posting their pictures on social media or checking-in at one of the two arenas. Some traveled to the city so they could make the autograph session and maybe a round or two, and turn back around to get to work on time.
Next year’s professional rodeo event will be held Sin City -- and at least until 2024 in the current contract -- along with the 700-junior contestant event.
Let’s meet these 10 individuals representing Indian Country.
WORLD NATIONAL FINALS RODEO
Aaron Tsinigine, Navajo
Tuba City, Arizona
Event: Team Roping (Header), 67
As of 2017, Aaron Tsinigine placed 31 in the world standings, according to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. He won the Indian National Finals Rodeo with Erich Rogers in 2010. Since 2006, Tsinigine has collected his winnings at multiple competitions. He and two other Navajo ropers, Derrick Begay and Erich Rogers, worked with 7G Foundation and held a roping school for Native youth last month in Round Rock, Arizona.
Derrick Begay, Navajo
Seba Dalkai, Arizona
Event: Team Roping (Header), 73
As a 2001 graduate of Winslow High School in Arizona, Begay was “one of the first Navajo cowboys in history to qualify for the NFR” in 2008, according to First Nations Focus. He grew up roping but didn’t compete in high school. He started competing after obtained his associates degree in industrial arts. Within a short amount time, Begay has proven it takes a lot of of hard work and focus to be at the top -- and that’s being an 8-time national finals rodeo qualifier.
Shane O’Connell, Oglala Lakota
Rapid City, South Dakota
Event: Bareback Riding, 87
The 23-year-old is a first-timer to the world competition and, according to the Wrangler Network, it’s been three years in the making. However, he has been competing in rodeo for 18 years in South Dakota. He’s from Rapid City in case you’re wondering. The bareback rider who “doesn’t put his hat on his bed” gathered quite a list of accomplishments that led him to his point in his career, such as winning the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Championship Rodeo in bareback earlier this year. He made his first appearance at the Indian National Finals Rodeo and finished as runner-up to the World Champion.
Erich Rogers, Navajo
Round Rock, Arizona
Event: Team Roping (Header), 113
This definitely isn’t Erich Rogers’ first rodeo. He’s already been part of the crowd seven times before and this year makes it his eighth appearance. Rogers comes back from a knee injury in March during a steer wrestling event. He torn his MCL, ACL and meniscus, also known as the “Unhappy Triad” of knee injuries. However, after a surgery by the Arizona Cardinals orthopedic surgeon, pain meds and some physical therapy, Rogers comes to compete.
JUNIOR NATIONAL FINALS RODEO
See the Junior WNFR schedule for when these junior athletes compete.
Matt Jodie, Navajo
Naschitti, New Mexico
Event: Steer Wrestling
Rooster Yazzie, Navajo
Brimhall, New Mexico
Event: Steer Wrestling
Faith Holyan, Navajo
Coyote Canyon, New Mexico
Event: Breakaway (19 & Under Girls)
This Navajo citizen won the women’s world championship at the Indian National Finals Rodeo this past October. But her accolades didn’t start there. She’s been winning since she was 9, she told Indigenous Goddess Gang. She competes in three rounds today.
Hiyo Yazzie, Navajo
Events: Steer Wrestling (Open) and Tie-Down Roping (19 & Under)
Hiyo Yazzie competes in two events, steer wrestling and tie-down roping. Today he will compete in steer wrestling between 11:15 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. Soon after he ropes between 1:45 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. and tomorrow between 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Yazzie received a lot of wishes of luck from fans at home. One commented on Facebook, “Good luck, Hiyo Yazzie. Grandma is cheering you on from AZ.” Another wrote to him, Rooster Yazzie and Jodie, “Best of luck to our young talented bullgdoggers!!! Y’all show ‘em how it’s done! Cheering for y’all boys!”
Dean Holyan, Navajo
Coyote Canyon, NM
Event: Tie-Down Roping (15 & Under; 19 & Under)
Since Dean Holyan was born into a rodeo family, he naturally took it on and started competing at a very young age, according to a podcast interview with 21st Century Native Leaders in February. In 2017 he became the world champion in the junior breakaway category at the Indian National Finals Rodeo. Holyan competes today for roping between 1:45 p.m. and 4:45 p.m., and tomorrow from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Aiden Lane Treetop, Standing Rock
Fort Yates, North Dakota
Event: Saddle Bronc Riding
This 10-year-old is the youngest person of Standing Rock to compete in the Junior WNFR. Of the 7,000 young people who enter, only 700 are chosen for this rodeo. His grandmother told the Bismarck Tribune that her grandson did “pretty good for his first time” as he tied for 11th.
HOW TO WATCH
You can keep up with the WNFR event daily via live stream or listen to one-on-one interviews with Word with a Champ’s Randy Taylor, Cherokee. The event can also be viewed on CBS Sports Network nightly at 7 p.m. PST/10 p.m. EST.