Ms. Indigenous San Juan College develops coloring book to show diversity of Native American communities

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — When Ms. Indigenous San Juan College Marie J. Nickoli thought of creating a coloring book for children, she knew it had to show the diversity of the Native American community.

"I wanted to show that we are still here, and we are many different nations and many different tribes," Nickoli said of the book.

Nickoli, who is Koyukon Athabascan, won the Ms. Indigenous San Juan College title on Sept. 21. She added the book helps promote her platform of visibility, unity and empowerment.

While Nickoli developed the concept, bringing the book to fruition was a collaborative effort between her and a small group of people she knows, including Navajo artist Dustin Jim.

The result is a book that offers 10 illustrations that depict Native American and Alaska Native culture, including representations of regalia, powwow dancers and Navajo rug designs as well as landscape and animals that are important to the people.

Ms. Indigenous San Juan College Marie J. Nickoli talks about her service in the Marine Corps to Samuel Vest during a Nov. 27 event at the Farmington Public Library.

Jim produced nine illustrations and his daughter, Araylia Jim, drew one that explains what it means to her to be Navajo. Her drawing is the first page of the book.

Nickoli said she sees the book increasing in size and including more features such as connect the dots and mazes.

To launch the book, coloring parties were held on Nov. 26 at the San Juan College West Campus in Kirtland and on Nov. 27 at the Farmington Public Library.

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"I like your horse," Nickoli said to James Vest while he used an orange crayon to color the animal during the event at the library in Farmington.

On the table were baskets of crayons, which the children dug into in search of the perfect colors.

A pair of orcas are among the illustrations in the coloring book developed by Ms. Indigenous San Juan College Marie J. Nickoli.

Avaya Lopez sat at one end of the table and used blue, purple and pink crayons to color an orca.

"To make it pretty," Lopez said was her reason for picking those hues.

Priscilla Garcia brought her daughter and three grandchildren to the coloring party.

When the family arrived, Nickoli explained to them the purpose of the book – an explanation Garcia appreciated.

"I thought this is neat because it shows a variety of different tribes," Garcia said after flipping the pages of the book.

Flo Trujillo, the youth services coordinator at the library, talked with Nickoli about holding another coloring event on Dec. 14.

Ms. Indigenous San Juan College Marie J. Nickoli distributes a copy of the coloring book she developed during a Nov. 27 event at the Farmington Public Library.

Trujillo also invited Nickoli to participate in the library's "No School Days" during the holiday break for students.

"What's nice is that it was developed, and it was created by her," Trujillo said. "Being able to have this also showcases to the kids that they can put something together, maybe on their own culture, and maybe show that experience."

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at

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