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Me-Wuk cultural champion, Cox, dies

Dorothy Cox, a longtime Tuolumne County resident and local advocate for American Indian heritage, died Sunday at Sonora Regional Medical Center. She was 69.

A 54-year resident of the Tuolumne Rancheria, she worked in various capacities for the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians, mostly focusing on teaching tribal traditions to youth.

She was among the tribe’s dance leaders. She taught younger members the ancestral dances and their meanings, and also made dresses used in ceremonies.

Traveling throughout California, she attended many different Native American ceremonies and celebrations — known as “big times” or “powwows.”

She also was a normal fixture at the Tuolumne Me-Wuks’ annual Acorn Festival, featuring her dresses and dancers she coached. The festival was created by Chief William Fuller, her husband’s grandfather, in 1966.

Her husband, Robert Stanley Cox, is currently the cultural director of the community council, the tribe’s legislative body. He is also a former chairman, the highest position in the tribe’s government.

Dorothy Cox herself never held any official title within the tribe, but her husband summarized her contribution as “trying to help younger generations understand their culture.”

She counseled American Indian students at Summerville Elementary and Summerville High schools in tracing their heritage.

She worked as a dental assistant for 15 years at the old Mariposa Amador Calaveras Tuolumne (M.A.C.T.) Health Board on the Tuolumne Rancheria.

Beyond her cultural volunteer work, her husband said, she may be best known for the comfort she gave children in helping them overcome their fear of the dentist. 

“My grandmother may be remembered for many things, but she will be remembered,” said granddaughter Kendra Cox, who danced with her in some of her tours of California. 

Dorothy did many things for the Me-Wuks and the community, even though she was born in Oceanside, and is a Yokut Indian by birth.

She married Robert Cox 54 years ago. They have four children, six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren together.

A visitation will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, followed by a memorial service, at Terzich and Wilson Funeral Home’s Tuolumne Chapel, 18411 Bay Ave. A reception will be held after the service at the Tribal Hall, 19595 Mi-Wu St., Tuolumne.

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