Spring is here, and so is Fort Lewis College student group Wanbli Ota’s annual Hozhoni Days Powwow.
Area residents and visitors from Indigenous tribes across the country appeared at FLC on Friday and Saturday for the traditional “Days of Beauty” powwow known as Hozhoni Days, which is a gathering of artists, singers and dancers.
It was started in 1966 by the Shalako Indian Club and the tradition is carried on today by the Wanbli Ota organization, a student group at FLC.
The family-oriented event draws people affiliated with various Indigenous tribes from across the country in a celebration of art, culture and students and their endeavors.
One participant in the musical gathering from Shonto, Arizona, who preferred to go by his first name, Leonard, said he first attended Hozhoni Days in the 1990s when his oldest daughter attended FLC. He was back in the Whalen Gym at the college on Saturday to celebrate the upcoming graduation of his other daughter, who will officially earn her degree on May 6, he said.
Leonard said he is of the Navajo Nation, but all sorts of different tribes gather for the powwow.
“They come here and then we dance and then we talk to each other, shake our hands,” he said.
Cody Loveland, a Durango-area resident and also a member of the Navajo Nation, was in attendance on Saturday for the men’s gourd dancing competition. He said he hadn’t participated in the tradition in over a decade, but after his grandfather’s death in 2016, he decided to get back into it to honor the memory of his grandfather.
He was gifted his grandfather’s old gourd dancing attire, he said.
“It’s probably not what people would consider a traditional type of dancing. It’s a dance of protection and healing,” he said. “For me, it just represents a lot of remembering where I grew up … Makes me feel good and grounded.”
He said his sister was also attending the event to compete in the fancy dancing competition.
The Wanbli Ota Club recognized its 2022-23 ambassadors, Amber Herrod, a Navajo and Cheyenne-Arapaho fourth-year student majoring in cell and molecular biology, and Aaliyah Juanico, of Diné background, a third-year student majoring in political science and minoring in marketing and Native American and Indigenous studies. Both students are from Farmington.