Dwanna McKay, assistant professor of Indigenous Studies in Colorado College’s Race, Ethnicity, and Migration Studies program, recently was honored as Elder of the Year at the 10th Annual Garden of the Gods Rock Ledge Ranch Powwow. McKay, a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation whose research focuses on social inequality and Indigenous identity, says she was “incredibly honored and humbled to be chosen as Elder of the Year.”

McKay says for Native people, “elder” isn’t just someone who has reached a certain age. “‘Elder’ is a term used to convey respect and affection for someone’s accomplishment, wisdom, and service to community,” she says. “So, to be recognized by the powwow committee and the greater community of Indigenous people for my work in higher education and my efforts toward social justice validates much of the sacrifice that it took to get here.”

Numerous Colorado College students, faculty, and staff attended the ceremony. McKay was presented with gifts and a blanket, and an honor song was performed for her.

“To have CC Indigenous/Native students, and other students I’ve taught or mentored, arrive to honor me by dancing behind me around the arena was incredibly meaningful,” she says. “It’s a memory I will always cherish.”