Ceriss Blackwood knows what it’s like to miss her home, but not quite the same way Rhiannon Yazzie understands it.
Blackwood grew up in Ignacio and, after graduating from high school in the early 2000s, she moved to the Front Range for secondary education. She’s now the multicultural equity and impact program manager at Durango High School, where she works with students and their parents.
Yazzie, who’s family lives in Coyote Canyon, New Mexico, on the Navajo reservation, is a member of the DHS Native American Parent Advisory Committee. Her son, Brett Franklin, is a freshman at DHS and a member of the Durango High School Native American Club.
“I’m excited that my son is part of the club,” Yazzie said surrounded by vendors Saturday at the Native American Heritage Powwow at DHS. “We gather together and help each other – that’s how we get our energy.”
The DHS Native American Parent Advisory Committee and the DHS Native American Club worked with Blackwood since May organizing the event. They partnered with vendors, invited dancers from around the Four Corners and worked together to add the powwow to the annual craft market for the first time this year.
President George H.W. Bush declared November Native American Heritage Month in 1990, but Native Americans have been fighting since the early 1900s for recognition from the United States government, according to The Library of Congress.
The Congress of the American Indian Association on Sept. 28 proclaimed “the second Saturday of each May as an American Indian Day and contained the first formal appeal for recognition of Indians as citizens.
“The year before this proclamation was issued, Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Indian, rode horseback from state to state seeking approval for a day to honor Indians,” according to the Library of Congress.
“On December 14, 1915, he presented the endorsements of 24 state governments at the White House. There is no record, however, of such a national day being proclaimed.”
If it were up to Yazzie, every day would honor Native American heritage. It’s important to teach young Native Americans to embrace their culture – it strengthens identity and community, she said.
Yazzie attends Fort Lewis College and is a junior in the school’s Native American Indigenous Studies program. She got an associates degree in early education and hopes to use what she learns to teach her children.
Blackwood hopes the DHS Native American organizations can forge formal relationships with other similar groups at FLC and beyond. The students want to host a basketball tournament this year and are fundraising to make it a reality.
“I’m hoping this event will highlight the Native American community, and I’m hoping it will grow,” she said. “Creating formal relationships is for the benefit of the entire community.”