This Tohono O'odham vocalist sang U.S. national anthem in his own language at Ridge Rider Days
Michael Enis, a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation, began singing the U.S. national anthem three decades ago — but with a twist — an impassioned performance in his own language, which derives from Uto-Aztecan linguistic roots. Though there are different dialects, Enis expressed: "When it's sung, especially in Native languages, it tells a similar story."
On Saturday night, he offered another rendition of that patriotic song and a blessing for the Glendale-based Arizona Ridge Riders, their rivals and fans at Desert Diamond Arena.
It was part of the second-ever Ridge Rider Days, an eight-team series competition coordinated by Professional Bull Riders, the largest bull riding league in the world. That weekend-long event marks the penultimate matchup for the 2023 PBR Camping World Team Series regular season, which culminates with its championship held in Las Vegas in late October.
"To me, it’s exciting to let other individuals know that we’re still here. Anything is possible," said Enis, who spoke backstage moments before stepping out onto that sandy dirt and into that familiar spotlight. "You know, your culture, your identity, will take you places. Many people don't think it's going to take you anywhere, but this is where it brought me."
Even to a professional bull riding grandstand. When asked whether he had any pre-show jitters, Enis answered back: "I feel like I'm as ready as possible." And it showed, as the rowdy crowd topping no more than 20,000 in attendance cheered him ahead of that evening's contests.