2015 Miss Native American USA winner Kristina Hyatt (Eastern Band of Cherokee) on stage after being crowned

Jason Morgan Edwards

2015 Miss Native American USA winner Kristina Hyatt (Eastern Band of Cherokee) on stage after being crowned

An Interview with 2015 Miss Native American USA winner Kristina Hyatt

There is new royalty as of August 8, 2015.  Kristina Hyatt (Eastern Band of Cherokee) was selected as Miss Native American USA 2015.  The 26 year-old dental hygienist bested eight other young women in a four round competition that included personal interviews; evening gown; talent; and traditional regalia competitions.  Quite naturally, she was thrilled to win the title.  “I’m over-whelmed with different emotions.  I’m definitely still in shock.  It seems so surreal.  I think it’ll take a couple of days to hit me and really sink in.  And, I’m very excited to have this opportunity to go out there and make a difference for Indian country.  I’m excited to go home and see my family.  I know they’re extremely proud.”

One the most important duties of Miss Native American USA is to promote encourage higher education and healthy living in both mainstream and Native American communities.  Hyatt plans to use her platform to further educate the Native community on the importance of good dental health.  “I completed college last May.  I [am] a registered dental hygienist.  I currently work with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Children’s Dental Program.  I work with the kids in our braces program.  I work in the clinic.  I see them and clean their teeth, and educate them about how to properly brush and floss with their braces so they can have beautiful, healthy smiles.  Upon deciding to compete, I decided my platform would be to promote awareness of the importance of dental care for Native Americans.  I want to focus on early prevention childhood cavities.  I want to educate parents on how important it is to take care of your child’s teeth, and prevent cavities.  I want to help reduce dental anxiety for our youth.  I know that access to dental care is an issue throughout Indian country.  So, I want to promote and advocate [for] improving access to dental care for Native Americans, in general.”  The importance of dental health and hygiene cannot be over-stated.  Hyatt related a tragic story in which a relatively minor problem developed into a life-threatening ordeal.  “People know that your dental health is important.  But, it’s one of those things that’s put on the back burner.  They tend to overlook how important it really is.  When I was doing research, I learned about this 12year old boy from Maryland who got a toothache.  His mom didn’t have access to dental care.  So, what started out as a toothache, ended up as an abscessed tooth.  And, the bacteria from the tooth spread to his brain.  So, if they had done an $80 tooth extraction, this boy would have been fine.  But, they [wound] up having to admit him into the hospital and spending upwards of $200,000 to try to save his life.  And, they weren’t able to do that.  This 12 year old boy died because of a toothache.”

Another aspect of being Miss Native American USA is leadership, especially where Native communities are concerned. “One thing that I did recently was the Smile Drive.  I reached out to my community members for donations for oral health products: tooth brushes, floss, tooth paste… I distributed those donations to the youth in our community, such as the children’s home [and] the youth center.  I was actually able to collect over 5,000 products.  Which was well beyond my goal.  The youth were so excited and they couldn’t wait to use these products.  So, that made me really happy.  [After such success,] I thought it would be good to do another Smile Drive in the near future, and distribute some of those products to other Tribes that may be less fortunate than my own.”

Hyatt’s first order of business after winning the title was to return home to Cherokee, North Carolina for a family and Tribal celebration, and of course to get back to her young patients.  “I’m sure they’ll want to present me to the Tribal Council.  And, I’ll get to introduce myself as the new Miss Native American USA.  So, that’s definitely going to be exciting.  And, just to be welcomed back home.  I know a lot of the youth in my community are very excited.” She is looking forward to visiting other Tribes and communities, and making guest appearances at various gatherings and pow wows, particularly Gathering of Nations.  In closing, Kristina says “I’m going to continue to work hard and do all that I can to serve my people and the people of other Tribes.  I would like to encourage [aspiring pageant contestants] to set goals, and go after those goals.  As Native Americans, we have the potential to do anything and everything that we set our minds to.  And, you’re never going to know unless you try.  So always put forth the effort, and always remember that with God, all things are possible.”

See our coverage of the 2015 Miss Native American USA pagent here:  /2015/08/17/3rd-miss-native-american-usa-pageant-crowns-winner-161411

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An Interview with 2015 Miss Native American USA winner Kristina Hyatt

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