Rawhide move gives Indians a say - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Rawhide move gives Indians a say

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Posted: Thursday, December 16, 2004 9:44 pm | Updated: 4:43 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

The history of the Old West — or at least the version that's presented at Rawhide Western Town and Steakhouse — is about to be rewritten, partner.

This time though, the Indians will have the final edit.

Jerry Hirsch, the longtime owner of the faux 1880s town, and leaders of the Gila River Indian Community confirmed at a news conference Thursday that the tribe is purchasing the tourist attraction.

Plans call for the tribe to take ownership of the north Scottsdale entertainment venue on Feb. 16 and shutter it for good on Sept. 9.

The tribe will rebuild and reopen the attraction Nov. 1 as Rawhide at Wild Horse Pass on the Gila River reservation near Chandler.

Parts of the town are expected to make the journey down Loop 101 and Interstate 10 to the new location.

For instance, the wooden storefronts along Main Street will be used at the new homestead, between the tribe's resort, golf course and casino.

The rebuilt Rawhide will be familiar enough with its pavilion, rodeo arena and outdoor cookout spots. And the cowboys hankerin' to lock up tourists are sure to mosey on over.

One of the most significant differences at the new Rawhide will be an expanded and serious-minded Indian village, according to Gila River leaders. The existing Rawhide has an Indian village, but even by Hirsch's admission it isn't successful.

Details of the new village are still being developed, but conceptual plans distributed at the news conference illustrate the emphasis it is getting. The site plans designate nearly as much space to the Indian village as to Main Street.

“We haven’t done a whole lot of planning other than the fact that we know we want to have it themed, and make sure that the reflections on Native Americans are correct," said Gila River Gov. Richard Narcia.

The village could be similar to the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii, which depicts the history of Pacific Islanders, Narcia said.

"We need to put something together that not only will put a show on, but will educate non-Indians about what the Western area is all about in relation to Indians," said Don Antone Sr., chairman of the tribe's Wild Horse Pass Development Authority.

It will feature the culture and traditions of Pima and Maricopa people, who make up Gila River's membership of 23,000. Neighboring tribes probably also will be invited to contribute.

"People just aren't well informed about Native American people," said Letha Lamb, a board member of the Wild Horse Development Authority.

"They don't realize that we're either Apache or we're Navajo or we're Pima or we're Maricopa, that while we're all Native Americans, we all have our individual identities and cultures. It will be exciting for us to share our individual cultures and traditions," she said.

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