Culturally proud contestants revive DSU’s Native American Pageant tradition

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It’s been four years since the last Miss Native American Dixie Pageant, and the women  dressed for the occasion have every intention to make an unforgettable comeback.

The pageant will be held in the Dunford Auditorium at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, and attendees can expect a combination of categories pulled from modern beauty pageants. The Native American twist on this particular beauty pageant is meant to bring a powerful message to the Dixie State University campus.

The woman behind it all is Kristine Whittaker, coordinator of the Multicultural and Diversity Center. She is a native Navajo and said she sees this pageant as a way to encourage students to embrace their Native American culture. Whittaker has put her passion for her culture and love for helping students into making this pageant a reality.

“[Navajo people] are so used to their surroundings, like on a Navajo reservation,” Whittaker said. “Natives — we’re shy. When we’re not in our environment, we’re a lot more reserved. This is a good chance for the girls to blossom and show the community who they are — to build confidence in themselves.”

Since the last queen was crowned in 2010, finding participants for the pageant was the biggest obstacle for Whittaker. It took some convincing, and there were some instances of women dropping out of the competition at the last minute, but Whittaker said she’s excited to bring the tradition back — hopefully for good.

The event will be hosted by Jordan Bracken, who was crowned Mr. Dixie earlier this year. He has collaborated with Whittaker and the contestants to present facts about the Native American culture and the different tribes that the women come from.

The contestants of the 17th Miss Dixie Native American Pageant are Ashley Holiday, Sootaki Bigwolf, Angelica Eltsosie and Crissie Adams.

Holiday, a freshman nursing major from Kayenta, Ariz., said even though this is her first beauty pageant, she doesn’t feel nervous. She speaks Navajo fluently and is planning on sticking to the traditional customs of a Navajo pageant right down to the jewelry she’ll be wearing.

“I think the pageant is another great way to have a Native American represent our school,” Holiday said. “We’re doing it to go out and teach the importance of education to other tribes and traditional values.”

Adams, a junior psychology major from Monroe, will be representing her heritage as an Apache native.

Adams is involved in reaching out to other Native Americans in the St. George community by educating them and building confidence in those who are seeking higher education. She said she hopes this pageant will evolve and bring in more students who want to be a part of the diversity on campus.

“Not many people are educated on Native American culture, but it’s all so fascinating,” Adams said. “I think it will be great help [to whoever wins] to educate kids to help it grow — to be a role model and to inspire other Native Americans.”