Southern Utah University crowned its new Miss Native American on Friday, Nov. 19 in the Miss Native American Pageant put on by the Native American Student Association.
Shantel Israel, the previous Miss Native American SUU, passed her crown off after holding the title for two years to Jade Warren, a Navajo student studying nursing.
Warren, who comes from both Navajo and Apache tribes, expressed excitement for the opportunities she will have being crowned Miss NASUU.
“It’s a really great honor and experience,” she said. “I’ll be able to go around to different events like pow wows or other schools and talk to different communities of indigenous people — other Native Americans. That’s really exciting for me.”
The night started with a short video introducing the three contestants, and a jingle dress dance by Mahala Sutherland, the 2021-2022 Royal T-Bird.
Each contestant performed a cultural talent. Shannon Luna, a Navajo student studying human nutrition, sang a Navajo song she used to perform when she was younger. Ariana Paul, a Navajo student studying psychology, performed a Navajo ribbon dance, which has been traditionally performed to cure a person who is ill or in need of spiritual healing. Warren performed an Apache war dance, a celebration of warriors coming home from battle.
After a round of questions, the judges tallied up the points for each contestant while Israel gave a farewell speech, talking about her time as Miss NASUU the past two years.
“Many Native Americans don’t get the chance to experience a traditional way of life,” she said. “During my time as Miss Native American of SUU, I was able to focus on bringing cultural education to many places, helping people get exposure to their culture and history.”
Warren was very excited to begin working on her platform of mental health help for Native Americans.
“A lot of Native Americans have mental health issues but it’s very taboo,” she said. “I want to reach out to them, especially to youth, and help them realize that it’s okay to struggle with things like that. It’s normal, and they aren’t weak for talking about it and asking for help.”
After Warren was crowned, the president of NASA, Kyle Secakuku, and Jeremy Garcia Standing-Soldier, who also performed multiple songs throughout the night, performed a drum song to honor the contestants.
Story and photos by McKayla Olsen