National Indian Gaming Association Mourns the Loss of 9-time World Champion Hoop Dancer, Nakotah LaRance

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July 21, 2020

Washington, D.C. – July 12, 2020 – The National Indian Gaming Association joins the rest of Indian country in mourning the passing of Nakotah LaRance.

LaRance died Sunday, July 12, in an accidental fall while climbing on an old bridge in Rio Arriba County in New Mexico. He was 30 years old. He was Tewa, Hopi, Navajo, and Assiniboine.

He was a world-class athlete and performer and a 9-time World Champion Hoop dancer. His passion for hoop dancing began when he was 5 when his father took him to a powwow. His chance meeting with the legendary hoop dancer Derrick Davis instilled in the young LaRance a passion to follow. That passion grew into an international profession, including becoming a principal dancer with the Cirque du Soleil in 2009, which took his travels around the world for more than three years.

In 2014, Nakotah joined the National Indian Gaming Association to open up the annual Indian Gaming Tradeshow and Convention tradeshow floor at the ribbon-cutting events, where showcased his world championship hoop dance moves to the gaming industry audience in attendance.

National Indian Gaming Association Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr., said, “Nakotah was a true example of young Indian country Warrior in leadership today. It was an honor to know him. His passion, talent, and determination to use his hoop dancing performances as an opportunity to educate about the culture and beauty of Indian country were amazing. Our prayers go out to his family, friends, and fans.”

In 2015 he performed at the 2015 opening of the Pan Am Games in Toronto, where more than a million television viewers and thousands of people in the live audience watched.

According to news sources, after three years, Nakotah was ready to return home. He created a youth group in northern New Mexico, the Pueblo of Pojoaque Youth Hoop Dancers. He was a master instructor at the Lightning Boy Foundation Youth Hoop Dancers. He was still in demand as a hoop dancer and traveled extensively for special performances.

His talents went beyond hoop dancing and on to the film and television stage. According to Indian Country Today, he won a First Americans in the Arts “Outstanding New Performance by an Actor in a Film” award for his performance in Steven Spielberg’s 2005 television series “Into the West.” He also had parts in “Longer Expiration Date” (2006) and “Longmire” (2012).

According to a family statement on social media, the family plans to send him home in our traditional Pueblo/Hopi way and they are asking for your prayers and kind thoughts in this time of grief.

A memorial will be planned in the near future. At that time, a donation fund has been made in memory of Nakotah.

Nakotah LaRance
2014 Indian Gaming Tradeshow & Convention
San Diego, California