A flute whistled in the background and burnt sage brush filled the air, cleansing and blessing the 21st annual Miss Native Dixie Pageant Nov. 1.
The Wincínjabina band, or the Little Girls Band, sounded the drums and thundered out the “Women’s Honor Song.” Three Dixie State University Native American women strolled out onto the stage in the Eccles Fine Arts Center to compete in the Miss Native Dixie pageant for 2016.
Ashley Holiday, a junior biology major from Kayenta, Arizona, was handed down the Miss Native Dixie crown from Crissie Adams, former Miss Native Dixie and DSU alumna.
Alyzza Stanley, a freshman criminal justice major from Monument Valley, Arizona, was sashed as second runner-up, followed by Tashiya Runs Through, a freshman music education major from St. George, as first runner-up.
Holiday said the Miss Native Dixie pageant is about being attuned with your culture.
“The native pageant is more about bringing out your own culture and background and presenting it to an audience,” she said.
About 130 people sat in the auditorium as the three contestants competed by singing in their native tongues, dancing to traditional music in a jingle dress, and educating the audience with the stories behind their performances and their traditional practices.
Mike Nelson, Miss Native Dixie pageant director and DSU’s Multicultural and Inclusion Center outreach coordinator, said one of the difficulties of the pageant for these women is being able to translate the language or ideas within the culture that is something understandable to a non-native audience.
“It may be a showcase for the audience, but for the competitors and their families, it is more of that memory [of their culture] that they are holding dear,” Nelson said.
Nelson said the Miss Native Dixie pageant and similar Native American pageants help preserve the culture for the many different Native American tribes.
“It gives [Native American] women the opportunity to learn more about their culture, to learn more of a skill, and it allows that growth for them,” Nelson said.
Holiday said it can be difficult facing the pressures of globalization and trying to hold onto her culture.
“It is very difficult facing acculturation, but at the same time, I always remember where I come from,” she said.
Holiday said going home is her rejuvenation because she can speak her native tongue and participate in traditional ceremonies and practices. This helps her balance her traditional culture in a contemporary lifestyle of a college student.
Judea Runs Through, a Wincínjabina drummer and DSU film equipment manager, said the most important part of the pageant is it gives Native Americans another voice and it teaches confidence to speak.
“It is an opportunity for them to learn it’s OK to speak up and be heard,” Runs Through said.
Fifty percent of the contestants score was weighed onstage with their traditional evening wear, the two talent segments featuring modern and traditional talents, and the onstage questionnaire. The other 50 percent of the score was weighed offstage in a private interview, academic achievement, written essay and service and involvement categories.
Audience member Cheryl Armenta said this pageant is a learning opportunity for people to become aware and see the variety in the different Native American tribes.
“It brings just about everybody together, not just the different native tribes, but the whole community.”
Along with her crown, Holiday was awarded a $1,000 scholarship and will represent Native Americans, DSU and its students for the next year.
“[Miss Native Dixie] means being a role model in the native community and the non-native community,” Holiday said.