A celebration of life for 86-year old Gwendolyn “Gwennie” Ecoffey-Minhas will be held after it is safe to do so.
Her grandson Dustin will take her back to Denver to be with family until all can gather together safely and bury her ashes with her Grandpa John Colhoff (the original interpreter for the Oglala Sioux Tribe) and amongst her Colhoff Tiospaye where she wanted her final resting place to be.
Two of her traditional grandchildren, one male and one female, will honor her and take her ashes up to Bear Butte (one of the seven sacred sites of the Lakota People) to send her off as she crosses over on her last day here with us.
Gwendolyn “Gwennie” Louise Ecoffey “Hinhan Win” (Owl Woman) was born March 25th, 1934, on the Pine Ridge reservation to Lawrence “Prunes” Ecoffey and Norma Colhoff and passed away Nov 7, 2020, in Rushville, NE
Gwennie was raised by her Grandfather, John R. Colhoff, during WWII. She attended school at Holy Rosary Mission. When school let out in the summer, she enjoyed going back home where she was allowed to be Lakota and speak her language and practice her traditions and culture. She told stories of riding on the back of her Grandpa Rattlesnake’s horse when she would go to pow wows with him and “go all Native” as she put it, after being in boarding school all year.
Gwen was raised by the first residents of the Pine Ridge Agency. When Gwen came to Denver in 1949, at the age of 15, with her Mother Norma, she was one of the original members of the Denver Native Community. As one of these original members, she was able to connect the dots to what is our modern-day history. She kept close ties with her family in Pine Ridge and embraced her culture and traditions.
One of the beautiful things about Gwen that many remember, was her recount of family stories and historical events. She was very eloquent, vibrant, colorful and energetic when telling the stories of her and her family in keeping with the oral tradition. It is due to her that her family knows those old stories and will continue her legacy through the oral tradition in telling those stories to her grandchildren for years to come.
Gwen did many things in her lifetime. She went to LPN school and was a nurse for several years. Later, she went to school to obtain her Bachelor’s Degree in Education and went on further to obtain her Master’s Degree in History. She was a Professor of Native American History at Antioch College and Metropolitan State College in Denver.
It was important for Gwen to teach the truth about the history of all her people. She said that the truth was not included in the history books. Later, she went on to work with the Adult Indian Education Program at the Denver Indian Center as the GED instructor. Her job involved helping her students connect with the proper learning materials, tutoring, and lots of cheerleading. Gwen excelled at this. Her students were Natives who somehow slipped through the cracks of the education system. She was an example and a source of strength to make them proud of who they were and who they could become. She always had a solid foundation as a traditionally raised Lakota Winyan and was proud enough to find her own path in life.
Gwen touched so many people’s lives and her name will always be remembered and honored.
She grew up in Pine Ridge, moved to Denver and made it back full circle to her relatives and the land she loved in her last years and was able to be visited by many of her relatives during those last two years of her life.
Gwen is survived by her children, James Ecoffey, Beatrice Ornelas, Norma Rendon and Tanya Ball; her step-children, whom she raised as her own, Zeke, Raza and Sherin Minhas; grandchildren, Dustin Baird, Amber Ford, Seneca Williams, Ava Ecoffey, Chanda Walking Eagle, Robert Rendon, Aspen Rendon, January Rendon, Nadine Janis, Ardie Janis, Marisa Berryhill, Tausha Hodge, John Ecoffey, Joshua Ball and Jacob Ball; sisters, Sissy Eagle Bull, Lindy Trueblood and Gloria Goggles; nieces/nephews, Wilma Colhoff, Babe Poor Bear, Gwen Colhoff, Marcia Colhoff, Dena Colhoff, Pat Brewer, Ben Brewer, Donald Morgan, Colleen Morgan, Douglas Colhoff, Tanya White, Sean White, Danielle White, Charles Colhoff, Eric Colhoff, John Colhoff, Angelique Colhoff, Toni Colhoff, Christie Red Hair-Hamilton, Lynette Red Hair, KC Red Hair, Gina Red Hair, Jennifer Runs Close to Lodge, Elena Goggles Singer, JL Trueblood, Ray Rowland, Prairie Rose Little Sky-White, John Little Sky, Suzy Mesteth, Jackie Eagle Bull-Miller, Shanny Waters, Dale Palmier, Jim Colhoff, Shannon Poor Bear, Renita Poor Bear, Sean Poor Bear and Jamie Goings.
Gwen is preceded in death by her parents, Lawrence Ecoffey and Norma Colhoff; her other Mother, Gladys Ecoffey; her other Father, Jack Prande; grandparents, Rose Nelson, Joe Ecoffey, John R. Colhoff, Fannie Pulliam, Sintehla, Mary Hand and George Colhoff; husband, Mike Minhas; sister, Jackie Palmier; uncles, Sam Colhoff, Freddie Colhoff and Jim Colhoff; aunts, Annie Colhoff and Wilma Colhoff; cousins, Sophie Colhoff, Vestana Colhoff, Laurie Colhoff, Tillie Colhoff, Eldora Colhoff, John R. Colhoff, Verdell Colhoff, Herb Colhoff, Gus Colhoff, Floyd Hand, Nadine Rendon and Eddie Little Sky; nephew, Virgil Colhoff; daughter, Tina Gonzales; and son, Benji Ecoffey.
Honorary pallbearers to be announced at a later date.