On Wednesday, Nov. 27, the SUU Native American Student Association (NASA), together with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, presented its 42nd annual “Miss Native American SUU” pageant.
In order to qualify for the pageant, the contestants had to make their own traditional Native American dress, perform a cultural talent, be currently enrolled at SUU, maintain a minimum 2.5 GPA and be an enrolled member in a federally-recognized tribe.
Miss Native American SUU not only receives the crown and title, but she is also awarded a scholarship for the following academic year.
“While other pageants focus more on beauty, Miss Native American SUU portrays traditional values and cultural knowledge,” Tina Calamity, an SUU Academic Advisor and the emcee for the evening, said. “We show that we are not artifacts. We are not something in a museum. We are not from the 1800’s. We are here.”
Different than a typical beauty pageant, the evening focused more on the contestants’ traditions and culture.
“It gives me the opportunity to help young girls promote and showcase who they are, firstly as women and also as part of their tribes, culture and traditional teachings,” agreed Brianna Collins, the Lead Pageant Coordinator and Miss Native American SUU for 2012.
This year’s contestants were Shantel Lynn Israel, a freshman biology major from Monument Valley, Arizona from the Navajo tribe; Ericka Hill, a freshman nursing major from Tuba City, Arizona also representing the Navajo tribe; Shelvie Zoel James, a sophomore anthropology and sociology double major from San Carlos, Arizona representing the San Carlos Apache tribe; and Mahala Bahozhon Sutherland, a freshman nursing major from Winslow, Arizona representing the Navajo tribe.
The contestants presented their traditional talents and knowledge to a panel of judges, as well as their traditional wardrobe, and ended the competition with a question and answer session with the judges.
“We want to show our culture and empower these young women to continue their education, but not forget where they come from,” Tyler Garcia, a junior from Cedar City studying business management and president of the Native American Student Association, said.
The winner of the Miss Native American SUU for 2018 to 2019 is Shelvie Zoel James, with Shantel Lynn Israel, Ericka Hill and Mahala Bahozhon Sutherland coming in as first, second, and third attendants respectively.
“I’m really grateful,” said James. “We all worked really hard for this, so it means a lot. I really want to represent my tribe and culture. I want to empower the Native women to use their voice every chance they get. Your voice matters and is heard.”
More information about the pageant and the SUU Native American Student Association can be found at their Facebook page.
Story by: Treyson Lyon
Photos by: SUU Center for Diversity and Inclusion