The Miss Hozhoni Days pageant is taking place March 29-30 in the Wahlen Gymnasium at Fort Lewis College, and will consist of speakers, powwowing, traditional food, and celebration of many Native American cultures.
The pageant comes to a conclusion when the winner has been chosen as the new Miss Hozhoni. The pageant events are free and open to the public.
In the Navajo language Hozhoni means “Days of Beauty,” and the pageant itself is the longest running completely student-led tradition here at FLC.
The Shalako Indian club, later to be known as the Wanbli Ota club, started the first Miss Hozhoni Day pageant in 1966.
Cyle Pete, the President of the Wanbli Ota Club explained what kind of qualities they are looking for in the potential Miss Hozhoni contestants.
“Miss Hozhoni is someone who is knowledgeable about her culture and where she comes from,” Pete said. “She is someone who is able to be a voice for students and represent the Native Student population.”
There are a total of five young women running for the title of Miss Hozhoni from a number of different tribes. The hope is that the pageant expands in the future and includes a more diverse group of competitors, performance groups and more involvement from the Durango community, he said.
Sunshine Perry is the current Ms. Hozhoni winner, the pageant has helped her break out of her comfort zone.
“I have always been a shy person and not at all able to speak up,” Perry said. “But after taking on this title it has given me the confidence to get more involved on campus and get to know more people.”
Competing for this title takes a lot of time and commitment, it requires many months of preparation and assistance from friends and family to ensure they are ready to compete.
“I had to prepare myself mentally along with preparing the things needed for my traditional foods and talent,” Perry said. “My traditional talent was tanning deer hides, so I had to work with my father daily on the scraping and braining of the hide that took weeks.”
For many of the young women, becoming involved in the pageant is a great way to learn more about their culture and get closer to their relatives. Deanna Diaz, last year’s pageant First Attendant, had to research her native traditions before she was ready to compete in the pageant.
“I had people telling me they wanted me to run and I wasn't sure how I felt about it because I was not very knowledgeable about my tribe,” Diaz said. “In order for me to be prepared I took an impromptu trip back to California and tracked down the one cousin I knew that was knowledgeable about Seneca ways.”
The Miss Hozhoni Pageant is an event that brings young FLC women closer to their families and cultural roots, while giving them the confidence to succeed in other areas of their life.