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Hozhoni Days powwow and pageant a festival of Native culture

A scene from the 2011 Hozhoni Days Powwow

A scene from the 2011 Hozhoni Days Powwow.

Its Navajo name means "Days of beauty" -- a description perfectly suited to Hozhoni Days, a month of pageantry, speakers, powwowing, and celebration of cultures that is Fort Lewis College's longest-running student-led tradition.

The theme for this year's 48th annual Hozhoni Days is “Celebrating the Centennial Through Traditions and Education." Events include speakers, workshops, and the annual Ms. Hozhoni Pageant, and culminates in a two-day weekend powwow, where the winner of this year's Ms. Hozhoni is crowned.

The Ms. Hozhoni Pageant is a three-day contest consisting of public speaking, traditional food presentations, and traditional and modern talent performances. The person holding the title of Ms. Hozhoni is recognized for the following year as the ambassador of Wanbli Ota and the Fort Lewis College Native community.

The Hozhoni Days Powwow is the campus's premiere spring event, at which the FLC community comes together to celebrate the cultural diversity that FLC stands for. This year's powwow will be held at Whalen Gymnasium on March 30 and 31, and will feature drummers and dancers from around the country performing and competing for prizes.

Hozhoni Days dates back to 1966, when the Shalako Indian Club, an early incarnation of today's Wanbli Ota, turned a small on-campus event into a full-blown celebration and renamed the multi-day event "Hozhoni Days." (Since the earlier event is included, this year is counted as the "48th annual" and not the "46th annual.")

The early Hozhoni Days consisted of three days that featured a banquet, powwow, and basketball tournament. Over the years, the Hozhoni Days powwow became a contest powwow and grew. Today competitive powwow performers from across the United States come to dance on the Skyhawks gym floor.

The Shalako Indian Club’s named changed in 1970s to Wambidiota Club, eventually taking on its present moniker, Wanbli Ota -- meaning "many eagles" in the Lakota language -- in 1991. Wanbli Ota remains the prime sponsor of Hozhoni Days, but also puts on events including from public presentations, speakers and artists, workshops, and cultural performances.

"A good number of our students come from a powwow tradition back home, and this is food for the soul for them," says Yvonne Bilinski, director of the Native American Center. "The students who plan and implement the powwow are extraordinary in their devotion. Their commitment to cultural excellence and to their studies is phenomenal. We are all exhausted by the end but have such a good feeling in our hearts."

For more information and a schedule of events, visit the Hozhoni Days Powwow and Pageant web site.

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