After gaining valuable professional expertise as a secretary, Grace “SwaHuux” Gillette discovered that she greatly enjoyed helping other people. Subsequently, she found success in numerous office manager positions as a result before flourishing as a logistical coordinator for five years. Today, she excels as the executive director of Denver March Powwow, Inc., where she has prospered since the late 1980s. In this role, she fundraises, stays in touch with vendors, networks and makes posters. She was the first female chair and, during this time, the attendance at events tripled. What attracted Ms. Gillette to her career was her upbringing and family history. With being able to trace their heritage back to the chief Sun of Star, she discovered she is his direct descendent. Her father was a tribal leader, tribal chairman, tribal judge and congregational minister.
Ms. Gillette’s area of expertise/specialty is in management, but what she is doing now is preserving culture through dance and music. There are indigenous people that are hard to put in a slot. However, her multiple areas include conference coordination, cultural history and preservation. Her Indian name means “squash.” Notably, Ms. Gillette was the keynote speaker at the Martin Luther King Awards Luncheon in 2013, the second woman and first Native American Indian in history.
Ms. Gillette was born and raised on a reservation, but there was such an age difference between her and her older siblings. Although two of her sisters were away at school, they were always in her life. Although she lived in a small community, she had a hard time and went to school in her junior and senior years in Berea, Kentucky. An expert in her field, Ms. Gillette earned an associate’s degree from Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, in 1968.
During her spare time, Ms. Gillette contributes to those in need through her affiliation with the Arikara Tribe, a tribe of Native Americans in North Dakota enrolled with the Mandan and the Hidatsa as the federally recognized tribe known as the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation. In light of her achievements, Ms. Gillette was awarded the Trustee Award for promoting dance by Dance USA and the Cleo Parker Robinson Foundation in Denver on June 17, 2020. Additionally, she was inducted into the Denver and Colorado Tourism Hall of Fame, and was featured in an 11-minute video at the National Indian Council of Aging titled “Following Grandma’s Path.”
Ms. Gillette attributes her success to her parents. Learning about her spirituality and her religion went hand in hand for her. She feels fortunate to have had both. Looking toward the future, she intends to experience the continued success of her career. The advice that Ms. Gillette can offer the next generation or others aspiring to work in her profession would be to remember that they don’t care how much you know, but how much you care. She is the proud mother of one wonderful child and two beloved grandchildren.