BELCOURT, N.D. — A centuries-old tradition will be celebrated by the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa this weekend when the tribal council hosts two days of Indian Relay Races at Chippewa Downs in Belcourt.
Race organizer Steve Herman Jr. said 15 teams from across the country have signed up to take part in the relay races Saturday, Oct. 9, and Sunday, Oct. 10.
Concessions and a beer garden will be open during the all-ages event. Races will begin at 1 p.m. each day. A ceremonial opening with drummers and dancers is planned for Saturday to kick off the event.
"So, the only thing we're going to need is fans," Herman said.
Each relay team consists of four team members and three horses with one rider, a mugger, and two holders. The single rider must begin riding one horse, in many races without a saddle, run the allotted distance around the track and then quickly hop off the horse and onto the next.
"The rider has to switch off three times with three different horses," Herman said.
The mugger is responsible for catching incoming horses, and the holders calm horses before and after their legs of the race.
The Native American tradition of relay races has been coming back and growing in popularity with large horse tracks around the country hosting relay races including Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minnesota.
The different races planned will include a chief's race in which tribal leaders will compete in full regalia, a maiden race for female riders and a kids' race.
While Chippewa Downs has hosted the relay races before as an exhibition in conjunction with its live horse racing season, this is the first time the event will be held as its own draw.
A "warrior race" will have the rider run 50 yards before mounting the horse and going around the track.
Herman said the tribe hopes to livestream the races on its Facebook page, Chippewa Downs Horse Racing Live Stream.
A horse sale will be held after the races. Admission is $5 per adult and $2 for children.