Nicole Lovato had never competed in a pageant before, but she saw it as an opportunity to give back to the Native American community and Fort Lewis College as a whole.
Lovato, a junior at Fort Lewis majoring in Native American and indigenous studies, was named Miss Hozhoni on Saturday, as part of the culmination of the 51st Hozhoni Days celebration. She is from the Santo Domingo Pueblo, between Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
As Miss Hozhoni, she will be an ambassador for the college’s Native American community, and she hopes to not only attend formal functions on campus, but also visit pueblos in New Mexico to talk about importance of education.
The candidates competed in four categories – public speaking, traditional food, traditional and modern talent.
As her traditional talent, Lovato told a story in Keres, her native language, about a couple who lost their baby in the woods.
She also performed a stand-up comedy routine as her modern talent, which she said took her outside her comfort zone.
“After that, I felt super empowered,” she said.
After graduation, Lovato hopes to return to New Mexico to build programs that will bring outdoor education and Native American and indigenous studies together.
Hozhoni Days is sponsored by the Native American Center at FLC and Wanbli Ota, the Native American student organization on campus.