Spokane jingle dress dancer and athlete becomes Act Six scholar

Sophia Turningrobe
Courtesy of Sophia TurningRobe

SPOKANE, Wash. — Last March, Sophia TurningRobe received the news that she will be experiencing her undergraduate years as a Act Six Scholar at Whitworth University where she hopes to broaden her horizons and learn how to give back to her Tribal community.

Expecting to receive an email regarding the scholarship, she was told by them to enter a ZOOM meeting to get some feedback. It was on that call that she and another girl received the news.

“All the staff were on the ZOOM call and they said ‘We just wanted to tell you and see your face and get your reaction that you were selected as an Act Six scholar’,” she said.

An enrolled member of both the Spokane Tribe and Siksika First Nation, TurningRobe will be studying political science and playing volleyball. Sometime after completing her schooling at Whitworth, she plans on attending law school and representing Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in court.

Aside from being an athlete, TurningRobe is also a jingle dress dancer, a healing dance Native Americans perform that she has been practicing since she was 10-years-old. She added that it is one of the many styles that Native Americans practice, describing it as heartwarming, beautiful and fun to perform.

Margo Hill, an assistant professor at Eastern Washington University and member of the Spokane Tribe, said that TurningRobe’s family is known for their beautiful songs and that TurningRobe taught herself how to jingle dress dance, with her mother working hard to make her regalia. Hill added that she has won numerous jingle dress competitions, which has helped develop her confidence and stay in shape for volleyball.

“It’s a really good way to stay connected with my Tribal community, represent myself and represent all of Indian Country,” TurningRobe said.

A video of jingle dress dancing at a 2017 Wellpinit powwow can be seen here.

Also, she currently holds the title of Miss Spokane Tribe 2019-2021. Even though her reign was supposed to end last year, the powwow never happened due to the pandemic and she was told she could continue through 2021.

Growing up with a rich culture from a young age, she said that her whole life has been centered around her Tribal community and wants to use her education to give back to it.

“I want to take my education seriously and take my education to a point where I am able top give back to a community that gave me so much because my Tribal community gave me family, my friends, memories and a rich culture. So majoring in political science or attending law school will give me the tools to give back to my Tribal community because it is the center of my life and is who I am,” she said.

Hill said that she represents her family and tribe in a powerful way and is the best example of what young Native people can do when they work hard.

“My culture is extremely important to me and I want to do everything to help out, not just only the Pacific Northwest Native Americans but all Native Americans across the United States and in Canada, and all across Indian Country to help them out in whichever way I can,” TurningRobe said.

With volleyball, she loves competing and supporting local sports, such as Gonzaga, and is excited to play college sports.

Even though she was often younger than many of the girls on the volleyball court, Hill said she still competed against girls who were 2 years older than her.

“We can’t wait to watch her play volleyball for the Whitworth Pirates!” Hill said in an email. “She has put in the time, effort and maintained discipline to be the best jingle dress dancer and the best volleyball player.”

Act Six, according to their website, is a leadership and scholarship program that connects local faith-based community affiliates with faith- and social justice-based colleges that provides full scholarship and leadership training for emerging urban and community leaders.