Native Americans of all ages from around the nation drummed, sang and danced Saturday at Fort Lewis College’s Hozhoni Days Powwow, a celebration of multigenerational culture.
Hundreds of people from around the region packed into the Whalen Gymnasium this weekend for an annual celebration of Native American culture, an event participants described as “healing.” The echo of melodic chanting and persistent percussion were accompanied by the jingle of bells and metal on people’s garb as they stomped in rhythm around the gymnasium.
FLC has hosted Hozhoni Days since 1966, when a group of students who called themselves the Shalako Indian Club, an early iteration of the Native American student group Wanbli Ota, wanted to organize a way to celebrate Native American culture, according to the college’s website. “Hozhoni” is a Navajo term that can be roughly translated to something like “beauty,” but alludes to a deeper and more profound sense of harmony and balance, the website says.
The event spans the entire weekend and also boasts the Hozhoni Ambassador Pageant, a talent, onstage question, speech competition between Native American FLC students to earn the title of Hozhoni Ambassador and represent the Native American community at the institution.
And although the event was started by college students, it’s meant for people of all ages.
Malcolm Murphy, a 27-year-old from Window Rock, Arizona, said he came to the Hozhoni Days Powwow on behalf of his family and his tribe. He came to enjoy himself and be part of the spiritual experience that is the powwow circle.
“Through this, we can bring happiness, good health and good blessings to our family,” Murphy said of the powwow.
Phyllis Begay, a 62-yera-old from Corner Springs, Arizona, said she loves to sing and dance and meet new people, and there’s no better place for that this weekend than Hozhoni Days at FLC.
Saturday’s event was the fifth Hozhoni Days celebration Begay has attended. It’s nice to see what vendors brought to sell, too, she said. But the most moving part of the celebration is the powwow, she said.
“I feel a lot of happiness – it’s very, very unique,” Begay said. “You feel the spirit and all of that.”
Viviana Toya, a 13-year-old from Gallop, New Mexico, said she being at the Hozhoni Days powwow felt like being around family: “I mostly know everyone here,” she said.
Viviana has been dancing since she was little, she said. She came to FLC on Saturday with her mother, Tamara.
When she’s dancing, Viviana said she isn’t thinking about much at all, she has a clear mind. And she “feels a healing good,” she said, when she dances with others.
“It’s like I’m healing people,” Viviana said. “There are people who can’t dance and experience these things, so I dance for them.”