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ZUNI, NM (Nov. 14, 2023) — This fall, the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project tried something new: a seven-week program called Oh’dipsheh’ (Dance Medicine), which brought people together each week for an hour of movement, music, and connection to culture and community. The inaugural program came to an end with a special celebration on Friday, Oct. 27.

According to Kenzi Bowekaty, program creator and one of ZYEP’s Food Sovereignty leaders, 80 people registered for Dance Medicine, with roughly 40 regulars attending each Friday. Interest built throughout the seven-week season, and the final celebration — featuring the Edaakie Singers, led by Arlo Edaakie — drew an enthusiastic crowd.

“We served a traditional meal that evening,” Bowekaty said. “With ZYEP providing funding for food, my family prepared traditional corn stew, Zuni oven bread and pudding, and homegrown watermelon for 70 people. We gave it all away!

“It got really crowded,” she continued. “People of all ages came to watch, and many of them were dancing along with the group from the sidelines. Some of the elders were dancing in their seats.”

Throughout the seven-week season, each Dance Medicine session began with stretching and meditation, accompanied by slower songs. Then, upbeat music allowed participants of all ages and abilities to jump and dance.

After more stretching and meditation, each session concluded with the circle coming together to thank each individual for sharing their own unique medicine and also to offer words of encouragement.

The program clearly struck a chord with the Zuni community. In recent surveys, the majority of respondents indicated that they would like to see Dance Medicine return for another session in 2024.

“They said they want more social dances, longer dance sessions, and more opportunities to sing and dance together,” Bowekaty said. “It feels good to say Dance Medicine was a success. We saw so many happy faces, and children and elders spending time together. It was such a good feeling, and we want it to continue.”

Bowekaty originally came up with the idea for Dance Medicine several years ago, but the Covid-19 pandemic put the program on pause. Her idea re-emerged earlier this year when she participated in the NB3 Healthy Kids, Healthy Futures conference, and attended a presentation by Anthony Fleg, founder of Running Medicine.

Fleg’s perspective, experience and success were deeply inspiring, Bowekaty said, and his presentation provided the motivation to bring her dream to life. She just needed to wait a little longer, as the Zuni cultural calendar does not allow social-dance drumming during the summer months.

This fall, however, the time was right — for Dance Medicine, and for the healing energy it could provide.

“My good friend Michael Garcia of Tamaya (Santa Ana) Pueblo was a guest singer at our first session, and he was blown away by the energy of the program,” Bowekaty. “He said he was eager to start the same in his hometown.

“I encourage other Native communities to incorporate an initiative like this into their own programming,” she added. “It was a success in boosting our physical activity and overall wellness, and it would be good to see this grow in our Pueblo communities.

To learn more about the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project and its programs, and for information about making donations, partnering with ZYEP, and volunteering, call (505) 782-8000 or visit And, to stay up to date on the latest news and events, follow the nonprofit youth organization on Facebook (/zuniyouthenrichmentproject), Instagram (@zuniyouthenrichmentproject), YouTube (/ZuniYouth), and TikTok (/zyep09)

Founded in 2009, the nonprofit Zuni Youth Enrichment Project is dedicated to promoting resilience among Zuni youth so they will grow into strong, healthy adults who are connected with Zuni traditions. ZYEP fulfills its mission by providing positive role models, enriching programs, and nurturing spaces that contribute to the healthy development of Zuni youth. ZYEP strives to provide every child with the encouragement and opportunities they need to reach their full potential.