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Kiva Club holds ‘Honoring Our Mothers’ Powwow during Nizhoni Week

On Sunday, April 28, the University of New Mexico Kiva Club hosted its annual Nizhoni Days Powwow on Johnson Field. The theme for this year’s powwow was “Honoring Our Mothers,” to honor women of every Indigenous community at the event, according to Kiva Club Communications Chair Lea Aguino.

The Powwow marked the end of Nizhoni Days, a week-long celebration held by UNM American Indian Student Services that included board games, culture-focused conferences and craft classes.

Nizhoni translates to "beautiful" in Diné, according to Aguino.

“Nizhoni Week has a very fitting name. It is quite a beautiful spectacle to be in these spaces with authentic Native American culture running, singing, drumming and dancing through it,” Aguino wrote.

The Powwow involved three major events: the Gourd Dance, which took place at noon to align with cultural traditions; the Grand Entry, where all dancers were led onto the field by the Head Man and Head Woman; a Community Feed, which provided a meal for attendees.

Head Woman Tashina Parker and Head Man Duane Harris led traditional gourd dancers and the Women Veteran Warriors Color Guard in the Grant Entry event, and hosted the Women’s Northern Traditional Special. “Specials” are dances attendees could participate in, Aguino wrote.

“I’ve been participating in powwows since before I could walk,” Parker said.

Parker was chosen to be Head Woman because she is a UNM student and a member of a Northern Plains tribe, she said.

“Our mothers are an important part of our lives as they are the ones who give us life. I felt it was so important that we honor all our mothers,” Parker said. “It was a huge honor and I am so blessed to have been chosen for a role of such high responsibility.”

Navajo Nation Vice President Richelle Montoya, a UNM alumni, also made an appearance at the Powwow, leading attendees in a prayer.

The event — which sees thousands of visitors each year — takes extensive planning and preparation by Kiva Club members, Aguino wrote.

“We are simply just a student organization, but the amount of work, input and time put into the Powwow results in something so much more meaningful. Kiva Club has built their own space as a student organization on campus, as well as a sacred space every April,” she wrote.

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The Powwow concluded with a meal, which, according to Aguino, isn’t a typical part of powwows but is a Kiva Club tradition.

“We know how significant it is to feed our relatives in tribal settings and how sincere it is to share a meal with loved ones. So we provide a free meal at the end of the day to all powwow-goers, which also takes a significant portion of planning-time to prepare for those hundreds of meals we give away,” Aguino wrote.

The students, with guidance from faculty advisor Wendy Greyeyes and support from their families and community, are the driving force behind Nizhoni Days, Aguino wrote.

“If you are able to experience Nizhoni Days and see this colorfully loud and magnificently boisterous event, you experience the blood, sweat and tears that all us students put into carrying on this legacy,” Aguino wrote.

Maria Fernandez is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at

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