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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 17, 2003 - Issue 87


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Gathering to Share Food, Fun, Dance and This Year, Some Tears

by L.A. Shively / Today Correspondent / Indian Country Today
credits: L.A. Shively / Indian Country Today

Fancy DancerALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Traditional and contemporary dance competitions, cheering crowds in the stands and on the arena floor, a special honoring song for U.S. Army Pfc. Lori Piestewa’s family, tears, laughter, food and fun, plus feathers in every hue imaginable set the scene for the 20th anniversary of the Gathering of Nations (GON) pow wow.

Approximately 75,000 tickets were sold for the event, held at The Pit on the University of New Mexico (UNM) campus. At any one time 22,000 people were present during the two-day event, either in the arena or at the Indian Trader’s Market according to Melonie Mathews, organizer and daughter of Derek and Dr. Lita Mathews, who founded GON in 1983.

A pow wow of this size requires an entire year to orchestrate said Mathews. "Oh my goodness, the challenges have been to maintain our enthusiasm to keep working. It takes so much. The challenge is on our own spirit."

GON is also a federally recognized non-profit organization. A new Academic Scholarship Foundation for Native American Students at UNM was recently announced with plans to offer American Indian students two-year scholarships in math, science and engineering in 2004.

Indian Motorcycle Corporation donated a 2003 "Indian Chief" motorcycle to the GON for fund-raising to benefit this newly established scholarship foundation.

"There are very few Native Americans in college," explained Mathews, "or in those career fields. We want to support the students that are under represented."

Other activities the non-profit supports include food donations, Albuquerque Indian Center for Thanksgiving feasts, annual Toys for Tots Christmas toy drives and giving over 200 t-shirts to tornado victims in Oklahoma City in 1998.

The goal of the organization is cultural exchange while promoting the traditions of American Indian people and dispelling stereotypes.

This year’s Miss Indian World is Onawa Lacy, who gave up her crown as Miss Indian New Mexico. She currently attends UNM and is studying English with a pre-law concentration. As part of her traditional presentation, Lacy talked about the Navajo cradleboard and how the elements are significant to Navajo culture and childrearing. She said she looks forward to representing the Navajo Nation during the year ahead.

The White Eagle Singers, Navajo, from New Mexico and Arizona with lead singer Arleigh Neskahi from Seattle, Wash. sang an honor song they’d composed for the Piestewa family while two blankets were placed on the arena floor for donations.

More information about GON is available at

Albuquerque, NM Map

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.

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