SACATON- One of fi ve girls will be crowned royalty ambassador for the Community as Miss Gila River at the 49th annual pageant.
The pageant will be held at the Blackwater Multipurpose Building on March 10, 2012. This year’s theme is based off the 50th Mul-Chu-Tha, “Celebrating 50 years of O’odham/Pee Posh Culture.” Four judges will score five contestants ranging from 18-24 years-old.
In the running: Raeging Storm Miles (D4), Amber Johns (D2), Starsha Dosela (D6), Kalyn Joaquin (D3) and Talia Antone (D3).
According to Diana Antone, Gila River Royalty Committee Chair-person, the committee is excited to see a new face to represent to Community.
Every year the pageant bases it’s theme off of the Mul- Chu-Tha. Last year’s pageant was “Celebrating O’otham/ Pee Posh Music Women-Dancing to the Music,” which the girls performed their modern and traditional talent around the theme.
Antone explained that American Indian pageants are very different from the typical non-American Indian pageants. This misconception and deterrent for girls applying is, maybe that they are judged on looks?
“It’s not your typical beauty pageant, it’s what’s inside. How you are as a person.” Antone said.
In the past, Miss Gila River was known as Miss Pima. Back then, girls were sent by their district and competed against the all seven districts for the title.
Last year three contestants at the MGR Pageant received titles for 2011-12: Lorena Clashin (Miss Gila River) , Reba Manuel (1st Attendant), and Talia Antone (2nd Attendant).
In the recent years, there have been few running for the pageant, but the Gila River Committee is optimistic.
Next year they hope to have each district represented and this year was unexpected for such a great turn out of girls.
Last year’s pageant had over 300 spectators, the Royalty Committee is expecting close to 500 since it’s the 50th Mul-Chu- Tha.
There are guidelines that a young woman must abide by when holding the title of Miss Gila River, said Antone.
“[She] can’t be cohabiting (living with a significant other), can’t be currently pregnant or have children.
She cannot have held the title as Miss Gila River in the past, must be alcohol and drug free and have a clean background.”
Another requirement is to have knowledge about the culture (Akimel O’otham or Pee Posh), also the contestant should either be working or in school.
Antone continued, “We expect a role model for the Community, especially for the young girls. We’re really looking for someone who is outspoken and motivated for change in the Community. And someone that will be a leader."
Community members believe that it’s an excellent idea to have a Miss Gila River represent the Community, especially this day and age.
Anissa Lupe from D-5 said the girl should be a role model for the people as well as the young ones. Lupe also believes that many more would run, but are shy. Lupe believes that a class or training for MGR participants would result in a larger turnout because some girls are afraid to come out of their shell.
“We’re excited for a new Miss Gila River. We are looking forward to give the opportunity for girl to represent the Community. Lorena did a good job this year, the next girl has big shoes to fill,” said Kelly Whitman, Co-chair for the Gila River Royalty Committee.
“Every year it’s exciting to see who is interested in running, just to see what the girls have to offer and to see how hard they prepared for the pageant,” Whitman said.
The Committee is excited for the 50th Anniversary of the Miss Gila River Pageant and would like to prepare as best as they can for it.
“We want to try to get the 50th at the Casino. We’re going to start fundraising and focus on recruiting more girls so it could get back to how it used to be where each district sent a girl to represent it,” Antone said.
Looking forward into the year, the committee is motivated to have MGR and her court out in the Community more.
“…whether it’s volunteering, raising awareness for her platform, getting her involved at the district level or attending district meetings. We hope to have her attend as many conferences and events in the Community,” Antone explained.
A platform is what the contestants base all their duties around; similar to Gov. Mendoza’s “ A new generation for the people” platform, the girls have to create on of their own based on the Communities needs.
According to Antone, the girls will be exposed to different things like working with the leaders of the Community, the different departments and organizations.
“You don’t have to have experience. It would be good. But running and being MGR or an attendant is an experience in itself,” Antone said.
Diana Antone is a former Miss Gila River. She had the experience of a lifetime meeting different people. This made her rethink her major from criminal justice to communication.
“I gained very good networking, public speaking and communication skills,” said Antone.
Traveling and representing the Community at events around Arizona and the nation is what can be expected as the titleholder or an attendant. Antone explained sharing your tradition and culture with other tribes and non-natives to allow them to know that we exist.
The Royalty Committee has seen many girls transform, watching their selfesteem grow.
At the pageant, the girls will be critiqued on a traditional talent, modern talent, traditional dress, modern dress, impromptu questions and a personal interview.
“Whatever skills they want to perform… We’ve had a drum player perform a chicken scratch and one sang Madonna,” Antone said.
Antone’s parting advice is to “just be you.” She added that to keep an open mind and be a sponge and soak up everything.
Remember that you are representing your district, your family and yourself. Remember to be humble, modest, have fun and learn from it.
Margaret Skenandor, an elder in the Community, believes that this should be an opportunity for girls to be encouraged by the tribe to pursue more education. The pageant offers a $3,000 scholarship once the reigning Miss Gila River titleholder completes their term. The Community elder also emphasized the importance of language; she believes that MGR should hold a strong understanding of it. “Everybody’s talking about the Pima language not being spoken and the young people don’t speak it at all,” which is a concern of Skenandors.
“I think that it’s one of the things too, is that somebody should be a model for the younger people coming up,” Skenandors said.
The elder believes that it is very important to have someone who will implement a strong sense of culture and language. She believes that MGR should know about the tribe because the people in her generation are going on.
“We’re all gone now (the people in my age group) it’s no longer going to be here. And there are some young people who don’t care to know,” Skenandors said.
Skenandors also would like to see someone who is interested in getting educated, “we need someone like that. They are the future for us and the younger generation that is coming about.”
She encourages those who run to learn our culture so they can teach it to the people. “That would be a good thing for a younger generation to know about. I know there’s a lot of research that could be done,” Skenandor said.
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