The eagle has landed. Christina Thomas, Northern Paiute, is currently in Barbados for the run-up to the Miss Humanity International pageant, in which she is representing the United States. (See our previous coverage: “Christina Thomas, Northern Paiute, to Represent U.S. in Miss Humanity International.”) With the fun just about to start, she responded to some questions from ICTMN.
What is your history with pageants or competitions like this?
This is my first non-Native pageant. In 2009 I ran for Miss Indian World. I set a new record for ticket sales and earned myself a cruise to the Bahamas. In 2010 I ran for Miss Indian Nations where I was 1st Runner-Up and Tribal Chairman’s Choice for Miss Indian Nations.
What drew you to this competition?
Someone sent me the link last year and told me I should run. I checked it out and saw it was a week away. So this past November-December when they were advertising for delegate applications I was curious so I sent them an email. Before I was even given the application I has to answer a few questions to decide if I was an applicable delegate. I wanted to participate in this pageant because it focuses on young ladies making a difference in their communities and countries because they are actually passionate about what they do, not because they have a title that makes them do charitable work.
Make your case for yourself — what are your humanitarian accomplishments that you feel ought to impress the judges?
I think I definitely walk the talk. My passion for the revitalization of not only my language, but native and indigenous languages and maintaining our identity as Native people is something that I do, not just say. I practice what I preach. From not only being the youngest teacher of my language, to dancing in our traditional dance group, singing old songs of my people. I try to encourage our youth in all aspects of keeping our tradition strong. Without sounding conceited I think my resume alone will be impressive, but what people are always impressed by is that I have sung for Vice President Biden and Michelle Obama on two different occasions. Also that I have attend the World Indigenous People’s Conference on Education in Peru representing the USA, and that I met with Nevada’s Senator Harry Reid, Congressman Dean Heller and Shelley Berkley in Washington D.C. discussing issues affecting Native Nevadans. Another aspect that I think will show that i really am about giving back is my involvement in numerous non-Native organizations as well.
What are you looking forward to doing or seeing in Barbados?
I absolutely love traveling! I like meeting new people and learning about the indigenous people in those communities. I look forward to learning more about the culture, history, and trying local food. We get to see the island during the week in different activities. I’m really looking forward to the submarine ride we get to take. The Caribbean is known for the lemon shark, so I hope to see a lot when we go underwater — I’m a huge shark freak. And of course meeting the other delegates. It’s very powerful to meet other inspiring young ladies who want to make a difference in the world.
By putting yourself out there in this way, with this kind of pageant, you’re setting yourself up to be a role model for young Native girls. What message do you have for them?
Inspiring the youth throughout Indian Country has been the best part of my journey thus far! I have conversations with young girls I work with in my communities and reservations, and for them to tell me that want to be like me or look up to me is truly humbling. I tell them to strive beyond what I have accomplished, dream bigger. I would tell them to always listen to their hearts and don’t be afraid to follow your dreams. You don’t want to look back and have regrets and “what-ifs”. Don’t think that because you are Native or live on a reservation that it will hold you back. Use your experiences in life and use those to your full advantage. I have experienced and seen drugs and alcohol, abuse, teen pregnancy, drop outs, gangs, and suicide affecting me or people I know. We see all these negative statistics, far too often, about life on reservations — but don’t take that to mean you are destined to become a part of that number.
What sort of support have you received from the Native community — and have you received support from outside the Native community? After all, you are representing not just your people but also the United States as a whole.
By far Indian country has been the most supportive of me. Of course my tribe and local surrounding tribes have been very supportive — donating money for my trip, sending out emails to vote, posting flyers, et cetera. But other tribes, Native organizations, and communities other than my own been very supportive as well, whether it’s been mailing me gifts, posting supportive messages on Facebook, sharing the links, and voting as well. Outside of Indian country, locally, it took them a while to get on the “Christina Train”. I was featured on News Channel 2, in the Reno Gazette Journal twice, on a local television show, on a radio morning show, and on four talk shows. They were supportive in getting the word out but most of my donations and gifts came from the native and other indigenous communities across the world! I’m very blessed by all my family, friends, fans, and supporters!