Love for the tradition of Indian Relay races runs her blood
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Q&A with Puyallup Tribal member Venetia Rose Case (Big Lake)
By Kate Manzanares, Puyallup Tribal Member
Venetia Rose Case (Big Lake) grew up in Tacoma. Spending time in foster care, she didn’t have the opportunity to get into horse racing – specifically Indian Relay racing – until she was much older.
“You don’t see much of Indian relay around here,” she said.
Case and her teammates travel around the country for the high-speed sport, competing for cash and prizes. These action packed races are a must-see event. Each race consists of five teams with three horses each that are ready to gallop into action.
“It resembles going into war,” Case said.
Question: How did you get into Indian relay races?
A: I was never given the opportunity to have horses until I was older. The first time I had a chance was when I lived in Tacoma with boarding in Orting. There I had the opportunity to learn a lot about thoroughbred horses and the flat track racing.
It all began when I had a chance to go to Emerald Downs in Auburn. That’s when I made a decision to own my horse and start up my own relay team.
I’ve always had a passion for horses and many other animals. I remember growing up wanting to have a farm of my own with chickens, pigs, horses, cows, goats, sheep, lambs, rabbits, and a farm dog. I grew up participating in 4-H with my siblings in our foster home. I also saw different animals at fairs, and that also influenced me to want to have horses when I got older.
I started up my relay team when I was 34. I named the team “Two Nations” because I’m enrolled in the Puyallup Tribe, and my teammates are enrolled in the Crow Agency Tribe, located in Montana. I competed in nearly every race the Horse Nations Indian Relay Council held.
Q: What are your tribal affiliations, and how do they relate to Indian Relay racing?
A: I am an enrolled Puyallup Member. I come from different tribes. My great-grandmothers and great-grandfathers are Plains Indians. I feel like this was meant for me: to love horses. The love for the tradition of Indian Relay races runs in my blood.
Q: Are races being held during COVID-19?
A: I am still competing. During this year, I have raced in South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming, with races coming up in Montana. A lot of the places that relays are held have a lower rate of infection. There were more races before the pandemic, and I can’t wait to compete in more states.
Q: What are the behind the scene activities that are involved in to make a race successful?
A: I am very involved with my horses and my team. Before and after each race, I have to load and unload the horses from the trailer. I need to make sure everything is meeting the safety procedures for safe travels.
I also need to make sure my team has what they need to be on point; I make sure they even have their team t-shirts. I make sure that the team and the horses have what they need to be in the race.
We all do our part for the horses and the races we attend.
Q: Can you offer any tips to the youth who might want to take up Indian Relay racing?
A: I believe in my heart that anyone can do this tradition. I want to bring it into the Puyallup Tribe. I want to allow our youth to learn something new. I want the youth to be around horses, which will give our youth a chance to get away from home and travel and get into this tradition. I also want Members to know that I can teach our youth and adults the basics about horses. I can train people to ride horses and what they need to know about races. I am so ready to teach everything to our tribal youth and adults.
My heart is filled with joy and prayers that I will have the opportunity to introduce our tribe to my horses and share the knowledge I have gained. If you are dedicated to learning, I am happy to teach anyone.
Photos courtesy of Puyallup Tribal Member Venetia Rose Case