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Hozhoni Days marks 50 years of celebrating Native culture

FLC President Dene Thomas crowns the 2013-14 Miss Hozhoni, Sunshine Perry.

Fort Lewis College President Dene Thomas crowns the 2013-14 Miss Hozhoni, Chantel Johnson. 

Its Navajo name means "Days of beauty" -- a description perfectly suited to Hozhoni Days, an annual celebration of pageantry and cultures that is the campus' premiere spring event.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, Hozhoni Days is FLC's longest-running student-led tradition. Sponsored by the Native American Center and Wanbli Ota, a campus Native American club, the event features the three-day Miss Hozhoni Pageant and ends with the weekend-long Hozhoni Days Powwow, at which Native American drummers and dancers from around the country perform and compete for prizes on the Whalen Gymnasium floor.

A Hozhoni Days contestant models traditional dress in 1971. The theme of this year's Hozhoni Days is “Honoring Our Alumni: Celebrating Our Tradition.” Events begin April 8, with the start of the annual Miss Hozhoni Pageant, and culminate in the Hozhoni Days Powwow, April 18 - 19, where this year's Miss Hozhoni will be crowned.

The Miss 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 Miss Hozhoni receives a scholarship and is recognized for the following year as the ambassador of the Fort Lewis College Native American community.

Miss Hozhoni Pageant events are:

  • April 8: Interview night, 5:30 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom
  • April 10: Traditional Food Night, 5:30 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom
  • April 14: Talent Night, 5:30 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom
  • April 19: Crowning of Miss Hozhoni, 7:30 p.m. in Whalen Gymnasium

Participants gather at a Hozhoni Days Powwow.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 "50th 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.

Hozhoni Days, though, is really about the hometown crowd, says Yvonne Bilinski, director of the Native American Center.

"A good number of our students come from a powwow tradition back home, and this is food for the soul for them," she explains. "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."

Learn more about the 2014 Hozhoni Days events.

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