Native Gala

Creating bridges through fashion, music, fun

Written by Amy Palser

Not a day goes by that Hazel Stabler isn’t working on the clothing, jewelry and accessories she is designing for her upcoming fashion show, her first ever in Wichita. The 10 to 12 original outfits started out in December as sketches on paper, then became hand-made patterns, were sewn from specially designed fabric and finally were embellished with embroidery and hand beading — work done totally by Stabler.

It’s a labor of love for the Wichita woman, a Native American from the Yaqui and Ojibwa tribes.

“My clothes are like a communication,” Stabler said. “It’s really important to me that we establish better relations between natives and non-natives.”

Stabler, who designs clothes that merge contemporary style with traditional Native American regalia, will be showcasing her newest collection at the 2018 ICT Native Gala, June 23 at the Mid-America All-Indian Center. The fashion show is representative of what leaders at the center are trying to achieve, namely joining Wichita’s Native Americans and non-native people groups.

“I just want to bridge the gaps between the Indian and non-Indian world,” said Stabler, who grew up in Emporia, lived outside Kansas for her adult life, then moved to Wichita with husband Hollis three years ago.

Organizers of the Native Gala are excited to have Stabler showcase her work at this year’s event. “It’s a unique opportunity to see regalia from many different tribes, and to see Hazel and her amazing designer skills,” said Jennifer Wright, one of the event organizers and a volunteer at the center. “She actually created and put on a fashion show for President Clinton at the White House. She has quite the resume.”

This year’s gala will feature a dinner by Chef Akamu Noble of Noble House Hawaiian in Wichita, whose food “is to die for,” Wright said. Noble, who is native Hawaiian and whose wife is Cherokee, will be serving bison teriyaki, a twist on traditional Native American meat.

An open bar will feature beer from Walnut River Brewery and wine from Twisted Cedar, a Native American-owned winery, as well as music by Terry Tsotigh and a performance by Wichita War Dancer. A silent auction will feature over 100 items of mainly Native American art, jewelry and pottery. There will be a live auction, as well.

When Wright, who is not native, and husband Brian, who is Apache, Pueblo and Navajo, started the event five years ago, their goal was to raise funds for a food bank on the Apache Reservation in Mescalero, N.M. While some of the proceeds still go to the food bank, much of what is raised at the gala goes to youth cultural activities at the All-Indian Center, which provides cultural, educational and entertainment opportunities for natives in Wichita.

“We’ve been a little stagnant in the Wichita community, not only in education for our kids in the native culture, but also because of the fact that those of us who aren’t raised around that culture, we need more of an understanding of the native thought process, to respect it and understand it a little better,” Wright said. “The history of how Native Americans were treated by the U.S. government is not exactly pretty; you feel ashamed, you feel embarrassed. We’ve got to get away from that so that history doesn’t repeat itself.”

Wright hopes to see attendees from all ethnic groups and all walks of life.

“The whole concept is getting the city of Wichita to connect to what our city’s named after, what our skyline represents,” she said. “This is a way of making that connection.”

Tickets for the 2018 ICT Native Gala are $45 and can be purchased at The event is 7 to 10 p.m., June 23, at the Mid-America All-Indian Center, 650 N. Seneca St.

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