FLC powwow celebrates its 55th year

Miss Southern Ute, Jazmine Carmenoros and Jr. Miss Southern Ute, Autumn Sage dance together during Grand Entry of the Hozhoni Days Powwow on Friday, April 12.
Edward Box III sits with a panel of judges for the annual Hozhoni Ambassador Pageant on Tuesday, April 9 in the Student Union Ballroom at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo.
Shayne White Thunder dances with powwow contestants and families during an intertribal song at the Hozhoni Days Powwow.
Southern Ute youth, Kieley White Thunder dances during an intertribal at the Hozhoni Days Powwow on Saturday, April 13.
Grass dancer, Dante Twizzer poses for a photo just as the contest song ends at the Hozhoni Days Powwow on Saturday, April 13.
Lorraine Watts competes in the 55th Annual Hozhoni Days Powwow on Friday, April 12.
Jr. Miss Southern Ute, Autumn Sage dances with other local royalty during a round dance song at the Hozhoni Days Powwow on Saturday, April 13.
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum

Contestants, spectators and students of all ages from around the nation came together to listen to talented drum groups, visit with one another and dance the night away starting on Friday, April, 12 through Saturday, April 13 during Fort Lewis College’s 55th Annual Hozhoni Days Powwow. The powwow is a celebration of multigenerational cultures.

United States Army Veteran, Bruce LeClaire helps bring in the Color Guard during the Grand Entry of the 55th Annual Hozhoni Days Powwow at Fort Lewis College on Saturday, April 13.

The two-day event keeps Fort Lewis College’s Whalen Gymnasium packed with hundreds of people watching the annual celebration of Native American culture. The echoing of jingling dresses, eagle whistling and shuffling of powwow regalia can be heard throughout the gym.

“This powwow is a way to celebrate not only my culture, but a lot of others—I love coming back,” Southern Ute elder, Andrew Frost stated. “It’s my favorite powwow, because it feels like home.”

Southern Ute elder, Dr. James Jefferson was honored by the head gourd dancer, Paige Burgess before the second session of the Hozhoni Days Powwow began on Saturday, April 13.

Dating back to 1966, Hozhoni Days was first started when a group of students who called themselves the Shalako Indian Club cultivated the first on campus powwow. Fast-forward a few years down the road, when that same Native American student group changed its name to “Wanbli Ota” in 1970. To this day, they still organize “the longest standing student led tradition” which is how its described-on Fort Lewis College’s website. Wanbli Ota is a student run, non-profit organization that “promotes cultural diversity on campus as well as in our surrounding communities—anyone is welcome to join and we look forward to meeting you,” the organizations website states.

Brianna Goodtracks-Alires dances during a women’s traditional special that was sponsored by former First Attendant 2018-2019, Lacey Tewanema on Friday, April 12 at the Hozhoni Days Powwow.

The creation of the event was by a young Clyde Benally who was a freshman at the time and was asked by Fort Lewis Deans to make the club more active. His solution was to create the Hozhoni Days Powwow. The powwow name was given to the event by Benally who went on to explain that, “Hozhoni is a Dinè (Navajo) word that can be roughly translated to describe something as beautiful, or harmonious.”

Benally graduated in 1968 with a degree in Humanities, but still attends the powwow year after year. He described this year’s event as it being like “taking a walk down memory lane—this year brought back the good memories of the early days of Hozhoni.”

Young fancy dancer, Olyvia Watts stands in line with other contestants during a flag song for the Grand Entry of the 55th Annual Hozhoni Days Powwow on Friday, April 12.

To fully experience the powwow, everyone is encouraged to attend the Hozhoni Ambassador pageant. The pageant is a three-day contest that tests each contestant’s knowledge of public speaking, traditional knowledge (i.e food, traditions and history) and talents. Whomever is crowned the ambassador is representing Wanbli Ota and the Fort Lewis College’s Native community.

Miss Hozhoni 2018-2019, April Yazza crowns the new Hozoni Ambassador for 2019-2020, Ally Gee at the 55th Annual Hozhoni Days Powwow on Friday, April 12.

This year, the powwow crowned Ally Gee as the new 2019-2020 Hozhoni Ambassador and her first attendant for the 2019-2020 title is Tiarney Andreas. Gee is currently a Sophomore at Fort Lewis and is pursuing her degree in Public Health. Andreas is also a sophomore at FLC who is double majoring in Sociology and Psychology.
In recent years, the Wanbli Ota have remained the prime sponsors of Hozhoni Days but they also host events throughout the school year that include public presentations, speakers and artists workshops as well as cultural performances.

Sierra Edd and her sister Ruthie Edd of “Edd Girl Art” dance together during an intertribal song at the Hozhoni Days Powwow.

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