By Maria Modica
In Native American culture, women stand up first.
That’s what Judea Runs Through, who is a part of the Nakona tribe and a production assistant in the digital film department, shared when talking about the importance of the Miss Native Dixie Pageant.
“Look at the water protectors at the Dakota pipeline; there are always these women at the front leading the way, which is amazing to me because women are the life bringers,” Runs Through said. “They bring beauty wherever they go, and I hope that these young women who participate in this year’s Miss Native Dixie Pageant know their power.”
The Multicultural Inclusion Center founded the Miss Native Dixie Pageant, which will be celebrating its 22nd anniversary. The crowned winner will receive a $1000 scholarship and become a spokesperson for Native Americans locally through different platforms, fundraisers and DSU events.
Five contestants who are affiliated with the Navajo tribe will be competing in this year’s pageant. The talent will reflect the Navajo language, culture and background, focus on beauty, gowns, modern talent, traditional talent and personal interviews.
When Runs Through was younger, her family would perform in past pageants. She didn’t understand how important it was then, but now wishes she would have participated before she graduated from DSU.
Her sister, Tashiyapoba Runs Through, participated and was awarded first attendant in last year’s Miss Native Dixie pageant. Runs Through said her sister was upset because she felt like there was a difference between what Native Americans see as beauty, and what white culture sees as beauty.
“We were always told, ‘You live in two separate worlds,’ but I don’t think there are those two worlds,” Runs Through said. “It’s one world. We all have to live in it together. We all have differences.”
During a pre-pageant interview, a judge asked Tashiyapoba, why it is important for people to learn about native culture, to which she responded, “We have to learn about yours.”
Runs Through said she sees the pageant as a way for Natives Americans to find their voice, especially after being silenced throughout history.
“[The pageant] gives a platform to say our peace and to educate others about our culture,” Runs Through said. “Education is really important, especially for native people coming from the reservations.”
Last year, Miss Native Dixie Ashley Holiday made a platform to help the North Dakota reservations because the Dakota Access LLC decided to build an oil pipeline underneath a river where native people got their water source from.
The Native American Student Association and the MIC teamed together to fundraise for the people in the pipeline reservations. Holiday then travelEd to North Dakota and gave people supplies and clothing.
There are currently 200 self identified Native American students at DSU. Utah has eight different tribes, and there are 556 federally recognized tribes in the U.S. today.
NASA Vice President, Phyllis Kitseallyboy came from the outskirts of the Navajo nation. She is a first time contestant for this year’s pageant and said she is excited to learn about her contestant’s tribe traditional talents.
“I didn’t think I would participate in the pageant because I thought I wasn’t as traditional,” she said. “But my grandparents always reassured me to wake up every morning [and] pray with corn pollen, the tadidiin, and pray to the people. This pageant reassures me that, I am Native American, and I’m showing myself and my culture. I want to make my grandparents proud.”
Mike Nelson, the assistant director of the MIC, adviser for NASA, and the Miss Native pageant Director explained the Miss Native Dixie Pageant is focused on making sure students feel unified.
“At the end of the day, we want to be able to have our participants and our contestants to share their culture and talents,” Nelson said. “It opens the door for inclusivity, especially in this divisive time of our country.”
The Miss Native Dixie will be on Nov. 1 at 7:30 p.m. in the Dolores Dore Eccles Fine Arts Center. Tickets can be purchased online for $5.