Every year at Gathering of Nations Powwow in New Mexico, Dozens of young Indigenous women compete for the title of Miss Indian World. This year, Northern Arapaho citizen and University of Wyoming senior Christie Wildcat was among the contestants. But the powwow and the pageant were cancelled to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
As Wildcat told Wyoming Public Radio's Savannah Maher, her preparation won't go to waste, as she plans to compete again next year.
SM: How long have you known that you wanted to be Miss Indian World?
CW: So, back in 2013 I was at the inauguration powwow for Obama's second term, and I just happened to look and see this giant crown towering over everybody and I was like, 'Mom, that's a beautiful crown. What'd she have to do to get it?' And she told me about Miss Indian World. And she said, 'One day when you're old enough, go for it.' You have to be knowledgeable in your culture, your language. And she was telling me everything you have to do. And so from then on I established, once I'm ready, once I'm old enough, I want to run for Miss Indian World. And this was finally this year, I said, 'I feel like I'm ready. I might as well run.'
SM: So how do you prepare for a contest like this? I know there are four categories-can you tell me about those and how you prepared?
CW: So there's a dance category, interview category, public speaking and traditional talent. But the main category I focused on was the talent portion. And my talent was going to be archery. I was going to string my bow, because I have the old style recurve bow. From there I was going to kind of narrate, tell a story, tell some history of the Arapaho people and hunting, and then bring it forward through time and connect it to women in hunting. Because women are starting to hunt more and more in this modern day,and they're like providing, they're being the breadwinners of the family. So I was going to connect that to the pageant empowering women, kind of tie it together with hunting and women and all of this. All while stringing a bow. And then I was going to shoot the bow into a target.
SM: And I'm sure you were also doing a lot of work on your jingle dress outfit?
CW: Oh yeah, it was a whole family effort for the outfit. I had one grandma making a new jingle dress, another grandma was making moccasins and leggings. It was a whole family effort.
SM: And you mentioned that you had a lot of community support. When I asked for this interview, you said you wanted to use this as an opportunity to thank the people who supported you.
CW: I just want to thank them from the bottom of my heart, because I didn't think I would have so much support. But they just came up across the community, from the reservation to Riverton to Lander, Dubois, all over Fremont County. It really made me want to tear up, you know? And I didn't want to let them down if I were to really run. So that's what I vowed, that I would run next year, because I couldn't let all that support go to waste, and I really want to represent Fremont County and Riverton and the Wind River Reservation really well, you know.
SM: And next year when you get to compete for real, what do you think it would mean for you to win?
CW: I think it would be amazing, because this is such a high title. People look at Wyoming and they're like 'Oh, there's nothing there really. There's just cows.' But to say hey, we have tribal people here who are really proud and really determined in their culture, I think it would definitely be a game changer. Because there definitely has not been someone from Wyoming to win this title. So it would be a first for all.
SM: Well, now you have a whole year to keep working on that and to keep preparing.
CW: Exactly. You know, I was kind of sad and down, but my friends and family said 'Well, think of it as extra year to prepare so when you go you can go fully prepared.' My mom said, 'Maybe the creator saw something you weren't ready for and now you can be ready for it.'
SM: Well Christie, thank you so much for taking some time to talk with me, and I hope we can talk again next year when you're getting ready to compete.
CW: For sure, for sure.
Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Savannah Maher, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Savannah is a Report For America corps member.