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Q) Congratulations! You are truly a beauty, inside and out! Please tell us about yourself? What do you want us to know about you?
A) Thank you so much. Manahuu (Hello), my name is Kaleena Layla Stone I am 17 years old, my tribes are Nuumu (Paiute) and Newe (Shoshone), I live on the Bishop Paiute reservation in Bishop, California where I was born and raised, currently I hold the title of Miss Bishop Paiute Tribe 2014/2015, my parents’ names are Michelle Cobos of the Bishop Paiute Tribe and the belated Harlan Stone of the Bishop Paiute Tribe, my maternal grandparents are the belated Janet Shaw of the Bishop Paiute Tribe and the belated Abelino Cobos. My paternal grandparents are Charlie and Gertie Stone of the Big Pine and Bishop Paiute Tribes. I am a Bishop Paiute Tribal member and a senior at Bishop Union High School, where I am also a member of the Bishop Future Farmers of America. Recently I was nominated at the Co-President of the Bishop Tribal Youth Council and I am excited to start doing and seeing some positive changes on and around our reservation with the youth, families and communities!
Q) What is your tribal heritage and affiliation? For those who might not know a lot about your tribe, what would you want them to know about your people?
A) My tribes are Nuumu (Paiute) and Newe (Shoshone) of the Owens Valley. I am a member of the Bishop Paiute Tribe located in Bishop, California. Our tribe is the fifth largest tribe in California with over 2,000 tribal members and one of the smallest land bases. Our people are war dancers and ribbon dancers. We hunt wild game and pick pinuts (tuba) in the fall and harvest them for winter. Making pinut mush, pinut soup or simply enjoying the cooked under hot coals pinuts as a delicacy or snack. Our people have gone out for years to pick and harvest pinuts and other natural plants and animals for winter or for sharing at social gatherings. My family was a apart of the 1941 land exchange where our families were moved from our original land base at Sunland Indian Reservation to what is now the Bishop Paiute Tribe Reservation, my family lives on Tu-Su Lane and the new Nuumu Way on the Bishop Paiute Reservation. Of course, I have extended family and relatives all over the Bishop Paiute Reservation and throughout the Owens Valley. My great-grandmothers walked over here to our new land base in the 1940’s carrying their belongings and children, the woman are the back bone in my family and a lot of others, I believe it is from my grandmothers, aunties, and great-grandmothers that I get my strength from. I come from a long line of strong Paiute and Shoshone woman.
Q) Culture and tradition is so important! What are some ways that you incorporate your tribal lifeways into your life?
A) For me it is important to learn our Nuumu (Paiute) language, I recently started going to language classes and have been learning under the awesome teaching of Glenn Nelson also a Bishop Paiute Tribal member. Ribbon dancing has been a huge importance in my life as well, I have learned to ribbon dance by another tribal member named Charlene Redner, she has taught me to dance about 3 years ago when I was 14 years old. We dance with our Bishop Paiute Ribbon dancers at events like our Pabanamanina Powwow held here in Bishop, CA during our California Indian Days at the end of every September, we also dance at The Big Pine Tribe Fall Fandango held the second weekend in October every year, this year our ribbon dance group was invited to share our dance by tribal representative Sage Romero of the Big Pine Paiute Tribe. I have been going pinut picking since I was a young child, my auntie who I also call Muah (Grandma) Janice used to work with the Toiyabe Elders Program here in Bishop and throughout the Owens Valley and beyond, my family used to go out on harvesting and gathering trips with the elders to assist, we learned to pick pinuts, cook them, gather wild onions, roots, water crest, berries, willows and tules all from our tribal elders ranging from Death Valley up to Coleville, CA (7) different California tribes we had the privilege of learning from. So, to me being involved in our cultural ways is very important to me, because I was taught at a young age, how to live of the land, I respect that teaching and will pass it on to our future generations.
Q) What was it like when you heard the announcement that you won? Has your life changed since then? If so, how?
A) When I won Miss Bishop Paiute Tribe my heart went into shock mode, it was like a dream that didn’t become reality until a few months into my reign. I mean I didn’t realize I was Miss Bishop Paiute Tribe until a few months later, even though I was attending a lot of events, it didn’t hit me until I finally let it sink in. My life has changed a lot because now people know me and come up to me and want to meet me, I have found my voice and I want to share it with the world. People have been so supportive and welcoming when I came into reign, and especially at different tribe’s powwows, the welcoming and hospitality is amazing, during this reign I have received a lot of gifts, beautiful inspirational comments and compliments and when I finally started to accept that my title was bigger than I thought, then it finally hit me and a sweet humbleness came over me, realizing that people, especially young girls look up to me and that feeling is so amazing, it brings tears to my eyes.
Q) What are some of the experiences that you are having as a titleholder? We'd enjoy hearing some of your stories!!
A) Well as Miss Bishop Paiute Tribe I have had a lot of experiences. I went to Washington D.C. in February of 2015 to attend and represent my crown at the UNITY Mid-year conference and that was amazing. I have traveled to many powwows and tribal festivals. Of course all the many events we have here on our Bishop Paiute Reservation and our neighboring tribal reservations. I also traveled to Metlakatla, Alaska for a Youth Mission Trip with the Sacramento Presbyterian Church this past summer 2015. Wow there are many events that I would like to give a shout out to, but then this interview would be really long. I would however, like to speak about an event that I recently took my crown to, it is called Ethnic Concerns Consultation at Zephyr Point, in Zephyr Cove, Nevada. At this event we come together with other ethnic people from all over California and Nevada, but ethnic people that are from other countries. I even had the chance to dance and listen to the signing of tribal members from the Congo in Africa, Clan/Tribal members and dancers from Alaska. At this event I shared some of our Nuumu (Paiute) Ribbon Dancing, I have been attending this event every October since I was a baby, but this year was especially sweet because I got to take my crown and represent my tribe. I have gained a lot of friends and met a lot of people along this journey as Miss Bishop Paiute Tribe, whom I will never forget.
Q) What are some of the issues you are promoting during your reign? What is your platform? How are you raising awareness for it throughout your reign?
A) My platform is Leading by Example… I want to raise awareness of the drug and alcohol abuse we have not only here on our reservation among our youth but for all the reservations all across Turtle Island. My vow is to remain drug and alcohol free, since I have never used drugs or alcohol a lot may say, well what doe she have to say about it? My answer is, plenty… I have seen the horror of addiction in our community and my own family. I have also seen the recovery process and what it does for the individual that wants to change their life around and Walk the Red Road, I have seen miracles happen on our reservation and in my family as well. When the person becomes sober they are and entirely different person, they walk different, they talk different, there is a calmness because they have been through the storm, it’s a beautiful thing to witness people in the recovery process from any kind of addiction. My hopes is to be an example for the youth on our reservation and throughout native country, I want to let them know that they have someone who is in their corner, who will be a friend when they need one, someone who will not judge them, but will be a listening ear. I want to let them know they too can live a sober life, they can become involved in their communities, their traditional dances, learning and reviving our language. There is so much that one can do to walk the good path, so I want to be that example for them, so in hopes that maybe one day, they will join me in this fight against drugs and alcohol, it kills our people, physically, mentally, emotionally and most of all spiritually. If we reach them when they are young then they can become givers of hope as well. That is a long platform, but my passion for it is extraordinary that it brings me a lot of hope for our future.
Q) What's next after your reign?
A) Well I plan to attend college in fall 2016, as to where is unknown as of now, but by spring 2016 I should have an answer as to where I will be attending college. I plan to major in animal science and art, maybe psychology. That’s what is great about hope, it brings so many ideas for the future. As for future title holding, well we will see where the future takes me. I do trust and believe that this is not the last Native Country will see of me, I have a passion for working with our Native people, I want to be a positive part of our changing societies, this brings me great joy and I cannot wait to see what my future holds.
Q) Do you see yourself as a role model to other Native Americans? How does that make you feel? What do you hope others learn from your example?
A) At first I just thought of myself as a normal native girl, I still do. But now I am a normal native girl with a purpose. My voice is now being heard for the first time, and people are starting to recognize what I bring to the table. I plan to lead by example, to be a positive role model for all youth, for all our people. At first I didn’t see myself this way, it wasn’t a confidence issue, I guess I was just a little shy and would blush at compliments and inspirational advice I would get from others. Now I can accept it without too much blushing, but I know that I have earned that kind of respect and that is something I will never take for granted.
Q) What advice would you give someone just starting out in pageants? What do you wish you knew before you started?
A) I would tell the young lady trying out, that she can do it. Yes, it is scary getting up in front of people, but trust me, they are just as nervous as you are. No one is better than anyone else, win or lose, you still got out there and gave it your all. Never give up, always believe in yourself. Keep active in your community and be a role model for our younger generations because they do look up to us and let’s give them someone of respect to look up to. Be a giver of hope, never be afraid to ask for help, but most of all love yourself, so others can see the light that is held within you.
Ummm, as for what I wish I knew before being a title holder is that this a never ending position, a very blessed position of course, but a calling that is going to take up a lot, if not all of your time. I wish I knew this because I wanted to go to UNITY National Conference in D.C. during the summer, even though I went to Mid-year in February I would have loved to take my crown to the National Conference, but before I ran for Miss Bishop Paiute Tribe, I already committed to raising livestock for our local Bishop FFA and that took up the same time as summer events that I wish I could have attending and taken my crown to. But, I will be at those events, hopefully with our New Miss Bishop Paiute Tribe and oh what an honor it will be. So, when running for a title like this, keep your calendar open because this takes priority overall.
Q) Anything else you’d like to share with us?
A) I just want to thank you for asking me to be spotlighted, what an honor, I respect you all so much and your beautiful spirits will be with me forever. Thank you for seeing me in such a lovely way, it makes all my hard work that much more amazing. Thank you to my family, especially my auntie Tanya Mitchell and granny Janice Mitchell you do so much for, just like our reservation does so much for me that I can never repay, but I will however continue to make you all proud. Thank you to the Bishop Paiute Tribe for selecting me as their representative, thank you to the Paiute Palace Casino for all they have done for me as well. Plus, I want to give a shout out to Rainy Watterson, she was the runner-up for Miss Bishop Paiute Tribe and I am blessed to have gotten the chance to be in the presence of an amazing young lady. There are so many shout outs and thank you’s I would like to give, but just know that I think of you all and you all hold a special place in my heart. Thank you Dr. Dawn Karima for the interview, you are beautiful and I respect you greatly, thank you for all you do for Native country; sending love and blessings to all.
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