(Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — The Championships of Champions Indian Relay Races are returning to Casper and the Central Wyoming Fairgrounds this summer.

The event was announced during a press conference with representatives from the Horse Nations Relay Council, Northern Arapaho Business Council, and Central Wyoming Fairgrounds.

“We’re very pleased and honored to be here today to share this great news with the people of Wyoming, the people throughout Native American Indian country, as well as the people abroad,” said Calvin Ghost Bear, President of the Horse Nations Relay Council.

Calvin Ghost Bear, President of the Horse Nations Indian Relay Council, talks during a press conference at the Ramkota Hotel on Thursday, March 16, 2023. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)

Ghost Bear said they hope to have some 60 teams from Arizona, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, Wyoming and Canada, which he said would mean a record number of athletes. They’ve also expanded women teams and will hold relays for kids and older children as well.

“We’re excited to have the Indian Nations bring their Relay Races back to Casper,” said Central Wyoming Fairgrounds manager Tom Jones. “This is one of the major events that Natrona County hosts; this organization is fantastic to work with.”

The Buffalo Bill Center of the West describes Indian Relay Races as the first extreme sport, originating among the Plains tribes.

The competition consists of one rider and three horses. The rider runs the horse at full speed around the track using little to no rigging or gear. Another team member called the “mugger” helps reign in the horse as it approaches, allowing the rider to hop on another animal for the next run.

Ghost Bear says horse races go back generations and each American Indian tribe had its own relays and traditions before the Relay Council started organizing large races.

“It’s steeped in tradition and culture with these races, because the horse is such an important part of our culture,” he said. [The horse] was our transportation, they helped us in battle, they moved us from one camp to another. We did everything with the horse, so we were dependent on it.”

“If you’ve never seen an Indian Relay Race, you really need to come see them,” said Jones. “These are one of the most exciting and professionally run events that I’ve been around.”

The event is scheduled for the weekend of Sept. 22, 23 and 24 at the Central Wyoming Fairgrounds, and tickets will go on sale on April 14.