Family and friends this week are mourning the death of Cassandra Yazzie-Hotchkiss, a 30-year-old Fort Lewis College
graduate and Native American activist killed Monday in a car accident.
Yazzie-Hotchkiss was married to Jason Hotchkiss, who was not in the vehicle. Three of the couple's young children -
Noah Hotchkiss, Amada Hotchkiss and Dante Hawkins - were seriously injured in the crash, which occurred Monday
afternoon near Colorado Highway 172 and County Road 311.
According to family members, a truck heading the other direction crossed into her lane near Oxford and collided
head-on with her vehicle.
The accident investigation was being handled by tribal police with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. Calls for
information about the crash were not returned.
The three children were airlifted from Durango to Denver, where they were being treated at Children's Hospital.
Sam Hotchkiss, Jason's brother, said that Dante, who is in elementary school, suffered various broken bones and a
head injury, which had prompted doctors to keep him in an induced coma while the swelling in his brain recedes.
Hotchkiss said the damage to Dante's brain was still being determined.
Noah, 11, suffered spinal injuries and currently has no movement in his legs, and Amada, 9, suffered a broken leg and
arm and injuries to her face which required plastic surgery.
"Her prognosis is very good," Hotchkiss wrote in an e-mail.
Family members described Jason Hotchkiss as being "shattered" by the accident.
Yazzie-Hotchkiss graduated from FLC in May this year with a degree in political science.
While at the school, she started Small Axe, Small Steps, a group dedicated to working on environmental and social
justice issues, particularly within Native American communities.
Chris Jocks, who was a faculty adviser for the group, said Yazzie-Hotchkiss had the unique ability to inspire people.
"She just had a way of really getting people involved. She would come up with really great ideas and then she'd just
recruit people," he said. "Suddenly, we were spending all kinds of time on it."
Yazzie-Hotchkiss also had volunteered for Our Sister's Keeper, a tribal coalition that provides assistance to
survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
In a statement heralding her accomplishments, the organization recognized Yazzie-Hotchkiss' rise from a hard-scrabble
youth that included foster homes and living on the streets in Albuquerque.
"What drives a person to continue to pursue her goals even when the odds are against her? It takes a special person
to do just that, and Cassandra Yazzie-Hotchkiss was that survivor who conquered all the evils and became a wonderful
human being," the statement said.
In her graduation announcement she wrote, "One day long ago, I shouted out in desperation to the world for guidance
and direction. Today, I know where I came from and how I got there."
Yazzie-Hotchkiss and Hotchkiss, a former river guide who has been in Durango for more than a decade, came to their
marriage in August 2007 with children from previous marriages.
Before her death, the couple had been working on the Four Rivers Institute, an organization that aims to empower
Native American students through professional adventure training. Hotchkiss is the executive director.
Yazzie-Hotchkiss will be buried at her uncle's ranch in New Mexico. A service will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday. A
reception will be held after at 2 p.m. at the Red Rock Chapter House outside of Gallup.