“There’s me and my little brother riding in the family right now. When I did something wrong, they were there to help me correct myself. I know there’s a bunch of kids down there, that I know could do it…”

Troy Tuni, 19
Rock Point, Arizona

 
 
 
 

A serious young man, but quick to smile, Troy Tuni is descended from a long line of Navajo cowboys and bull riders. Rodeo is in his blood, and he wants more Native youths to feel the thrill of riding rough stock on the Indian National circuit and beyond.

 
 
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In the vastness of the Arizona plains, the Tuni family ranch is edged by history. Life is hard here, but the Diné have worked with horse and land to carve a way of life that’s lasted centuries.

 
 

Like Troy, most rodeo riders start out young, around 4 or 5 years old. To be successful, they have to compete regularly. Troy rides in around 100 rodeos a year. Competing costs money in travel and entry fees. Family support is essential. If riders are talented enough, and lucky enough, they can win enough to pay their families back and then some. It’s a gamble many are willing to take.

 
 
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For young Native Americans, rodeo gives them the opportunity to represent their homes and their Nation with pride. Troy's brother Wade (12), is also shaping up to be a champion bull rider.

 
 
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“The god Begochiddy originally created the horse for the Diné people. The Sun rode a favourite horse as he crossed the sky and kept herds to the north, south, east, and west of his home.”

This horse pictograph, carved by their Navajo ancestors, is located on the Tuni family ranch.