The excitement is growing as 23 young women from all over the country are preparing to compete for the title of Miss Indian World 2014. The most prestigious of all pow wow royalty titles, Miss Indian World 2014 will represent the Indian nations and the Gathering of Nations pow wow as she travels the country, spreading goodwill and inspirational messages to young and old.
Contestant Brittany Clause, 23, Cayuga Nation, Six Nations Haudenosaunee, is entering the competition for her second consecutive year. “The pageant is not really a competition, it is about competing with ourselves and empowering each other for those shining moments that bring us to our fullest potential,” Clause told ICTMN.
As part of her presentation, Clause will promote the importance of empowering women. “All aboriginal women and communities across America suffer from historic trauma,” she said.
Clause connects the effects of “the ’60s scoop, the residential schools, and genocide,” with health disparities that include diabetes, alcohol, family and domestic violence. “I think it is truly honorable that the women who are coming from that background use those historic traumas to prosper into something beautiful to change those stereotypes today,” she said.
Kansas Begaye, 25, Dine, is the current Miss Indian World 2013, and is getting ready to pass on her crown. In a telephone interview, she offered advice to the incoming title-holder. “Take it one day at a time, it goes by very fast. Make a plan because the next thing you know, half a year is gone. Stick with your platform.”
Each contestant must present a platform, or source of inspiration she hopes to share with others over the coming year. Begaye’s 2013 platform was to encourage youth to believe in themselves, which she said is the biggest hurdle in becoming a success.
Being Miss Indian World gave her the opportunity to talk to the younger generation in many regions.
She said, “I told them it’s really possible. I got my bachelors degree, but I wasn’t an honor roll student and I still got through it. So many kids said, ‘Well, how I can I ever be an educator,’ or ‘Oh, I am not smart enough, I am not college material.’ If you have the motivation to do it, you can do it,” Begaye said.
Danielle Finn, 23, Standing Rock, South Dakota, said she entered the competition with the hopes of bringing some positive recognition back to the people at home. She said the tribe had faced a hard year with propane problems, unexpected deaths, and more. Remembering the struggles she faced as a teen, she said, “Kids need someone to look up to. I walked through the same halls they did,” she said.
As someone who has already worked with students, contestant Nellie Northway, 25, Naaltstiin Athabascan of Northway Village, Alaska, said that she often speaks out against drugs and alcohol in her area. If she wins the title, Northway said she would have an even greater outreach.
“I would push the youth to finish school, go to college, invest in their future,” Northway said. “When I was growing up my teachers told me to drop-out everyday, that I would only be a statistic. The kids don’t have enough encouragement to do their best, and I still push to do my best. School is the key to a better future.”
Besides promoting her platform, nominees for the title of Miss Indian World must be able to represent their culture. Northway looks back at her grandparents’ experiences and recognizes how much it has taught her. She credits her grandparents with teaching her how to live off the land, from gathering food in the summer to tanning moose hide.
She is proud of the struggles they faced and recalled the birth of her grandmother, Avis Sam. “She was born in -60 degrees, in a tent in Alaska. Her father kept her warm by bundling her in a squirrel’s nest.”
About traveling to Albuquerque, Northway said, “I am very, very excited. My family knows that I am reaching my dream. I am going for them.”
As the reign of the 2013 Miss Indian World comes to an end, the upbeat Begaye said her year was inspirational. “It was the experience of a lifetime! I traveled a lot, and focused my time speaking in schools and at pows wows. I learned a lot about so many different cultures and languages, the different struggles…it was everything I thought it would be and and more. It changed my life.”
As a Native American traditional recording artist, Begaye said she will use her upcoming extra time to record a new album.
The competition is based on public speaking, a personal interview, traditional presentation, and the dance and essay. The 2014 Miss Indian World Pageant will be held on April 22-26 at the University of New Mexico Arena “The Pit,” in Albuquerque, New Mexico.