A major celebration around the world, the San Juan Feast, recognizes the birth of Saint San Juan the Baptist. Within the Ak-Chin Indian Community, the Miguel family hosted a celebration, as they have for many years, on June 25. Robert Miguel, Chairman of the Ak-Chin Indian Community notes that this celebration is a special time for his family. “My grandfather and father taught us so well,” he said. “We continue to take the feast to another level by opening it up to everyone, not just the Ak-Chin Indian Community.”
A memorial church on the Miguel family property commemorates the Ak-Chin Indian Community’s first church, destroyed by a microburst in the 1960s. At the time, Ak-Chin Indian Community member Jonas Miguel gathered remains of the church including statues, pictures, candles and more, keeping these items at his home. Jonas and his son and son in laws built a structure to house these church artifacts. This provided the Ak-Chin Indian Community a sanctuary to pray and a place to bring sacred statues, rosaries, wall plaques, and pictures.
Each year the San Juan Feast begins at sunrise with the opening of the church doors at the memorial sanctuary and a blessing from prayer groups. Then, those joining the celebration form a procession from the original church site back over to the sanctuary. This year, the group was led by Ak-Chin Indian Community Chairman Robert Miguel and Ak-Chin Indian Community members Stephan Quinonez, Hector Medrano, and Rufus White.
In addition to the memorial sanctuary, the Miguel compound has six homes with extended family living on site. These family homes feature covered patios with chairs and tables, offering open spots for visitors to relax and enjoy a full day of festivities – music, prayers, singing, and dancing.
Singer Jewel Adams, a longtime local musician, performed a variety of music from the ’60s and ’70s along with Mexican and country music songs, according to an article in the Ak-Chin O’odham Runner, http://www.ak-chin.nsn.us/run/2016/16.pdf.
Gertie and the TO Boyz performed traditional vaila and chicken scratch classics. At sunset, a ceremony closed the sanctuary, and more music, food, and fireworks continued the celebration into the night.
What a wonderful annual and traditional feast that lasts all day.
We want to thank Robert Miguel, Chairman of the Ak-Chin Indian Community, for sharing information about the culture, traditions and celebration.