Miss Indian Arizona…A True Native Ambassador!

Posted By PowWows.com April 16th, 2015 Last Updated on: April 20th, 2015

Miss Indian Arizona!

Miss Indian Arizona!

Articulate, athletic and aspiring, the reigning Miss Indian Arizona is an amazing ambassador! Shasta Dazen, White Mountain Apache, loves the powwow life and being a Princess. She shares her journey with us here at Powwows.com!

Interview by Dawn Karima, Native American Culture Editor

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) I am Shasta Dazen and the core of my existence is White Mountain Apache, from the Ft. Apache Indian Reservation and I choose my path and life choices based upon that foundation. I am 21 years old, a member of the Pinetree Clan born for the Mixed blood clan. I enjoy playing basketball, volleyball, softball, riding horses, running, beading, and just enjoying time with family, mainly my maternal Grandfather Grant Lee. I believe that being with Family is the most important thing in my life.

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)I am a member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe from Whiteriver, Arizona. We have 1.4 million acres in land. We are mainly known for our Crowndancers. We have a heritage that continues to thrive from our Elders down to our Children. The foundation of my peoples’ culture lays with the respect and blessings that come from our ancestors. Our language is strong, our cultures with our Sunrise dances are strong with the young women when we welcome them into womanhood. My heritage is so unique and a true blessing considering that since 1830 after an act that was passed to move my people from their homelands, and trying to take away their language, culture, and traditions. My people are strong and persevered and we still practice everything that we have today and instill that in our everyday lives.

Q) Culture and tradition is so important! What are some ways that you incorporate your tribal lifeways into your life?
A) I am so in love with my culture and traditions. I can’t imagine the Great Spirit blessing me to be something other than Apache. I was always taught by my grandparents to wake up before the sun and pray. I listen to Apache music in the morning and sing along to the songs, my parents are fluent Apache speakers and they speak to me in Apache. My clan brothers from the Pinetree Clan have their own crowndance group and when they are asked to perform I get to dance with them. I was always taught that I have to do something each day to carry on my culture and traditions.

Q) Powwows are very important to many of our Native people, including all of us here at Powwows.com. Do you attend powwows?

A)Yes I love the powwows. I admire the beat to the drum, it sounds like the beat of a heart. I attend the local powwows in Arizona and I go to the Gathering of Nations. I think it’s great that we all have a passion for powwows because it’s the one thing that can bring all our nations together and we all have a common goal to honor our ancestors when we dance, sing, and partake in it.

Sassamin Weeden enjoys meeting other powwow princesses as she travels from powwow to powwow!

Miss Indian Arizona  enjoys meeting other powwow princesses as she travels from powwow to powwow!

Q) What do powwows mean to you? Why do you think powwows are important?

A) Powwows give me that sense of belonging to the Native American identity. It means so much when an honor song is sung and the dancers dance because you can’t do that every day. I believe it’s so important because it connects us to each other. Our ancestors were forbidden these certain kind of dances but powwows help us reconnect to the ones who have gone before. It reminds me of the Maori traditions before they go into battle they do the Haka.

Q) What was it like when you heard the announcement that you won? Has your life changed since then? If so, how?

A) Well, I didn’t hear my name, all I heard was, “your new Miss Indian Arizona 2014-2015 is; Participant #4” All the girls looked at me and I realized I burst into tears because that night I didn’t do the pageant for myself, I did it in honor of my ancestors meaning my grandmother, great-grandmother and so forth. I cried because I felt their presence all around me, I know deep down their spirits were there. I felt like my life has changed so much because, everywhere I go, people recognize me and want a picture or just want to talk. I get super happy and I cry because I didn’t know how many people in the state of Arizona are honored to have me as their ambassador. I’m just so humbled by that and I come from one tribe out of 21 that are in Arizona so it’s inspiring to have me go out to other reservations and do what I can for everyone. I just cry all the time to anyone I meet and it’s a whole new me. I feel so deeply for everyone and I am happy that I feel the way I do.

Q) What are some of the experiences that you are having as a titleholder? We'd enjoy hearing some of your stories!!

A) Well, the title doesn’t belong to me as a person, the title belongs to the People of Arizona that I represent. I’ve learned that my role as an ambassador is to teach, to motivate, to be an example, and to inspire my people. I experience the best from so many people it’s such a blessing to learn so much. I experience such wonderful blessings from so many cultures because there are 21 different tribal nations in Arizona with different languages, cultures and traditions, there is to an extent where we live in peace with each nation, which is very difficult considering our history but I believe that in today’s society we all have to help one another and that is why Miss Indian Arizona is so essential to all the tribal nations and that’s the greatest experience to know I can do that for each nation.

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 Enriching Personal Strength through Building Relationships with Our Families. I come from a family of 12 and we were taught that we only have each other. We were raised in a really good and selfless way. I think Family is the foundation of learning the ability to love one another and to be living in loving relationships not only brings us happiness but it helps learn correct principles and teachings. My family were taught that every person we see, no matter the race, beliefs, body types, or appearances are family. I am raising awareness by being actively involved with health programs such as Division of Health, Apache Behavioral Health Services, Helping Everyday Youth, Johns Hopkins Public Health Programs, etc., they host public events about everything such as; mental illness, autism awareness, healthy heart, suicide prevention, self-esteem building, etc., I am just happy that I can advocate on their behalf when they need me to.

Q) What's next after your reign?

A) I really want to go back to playing college basketball. I want to attend Northwest Indian College in Washington. I am desperately seeking out opportunities that will lead up to playing basketball anywhere. If that doesn’t work out then I will probably move to Utah to go to LDS Business College or BYU for a year then prepare to go on a LDS Mission, maybe even be a future contestant for Miss Indian World. I think it’s good to have dreams and I am so happy to push myself to go wherever my dreams will lead me. I still want to come back to my people and help in vast areas that need my support.

Q) What's the best advice you've ever received? What piece of advice are you glad that you DID NOT follow?

A)I remember the quote being, “don’t do anything that will embarrass you, the team, or your family.” I incorporated that with my pageant life by saying, “Don’t do anything that will embarrass you, your people, or your family.” I always have to keep in mind to stay, “Kia Kaha” which means Forever Strong. “Good decisions in life don’t make it easy, they make it easier.” I always think that it means so much to live by these values, because you care about your image to the people. I have been so blessed and uplifted by these lessons. Attitude and Effort are everything. You will far more succeed on your attitude and effort than anything, it’s more important than natural intelligence and ability. The piece of advice that I was glad that I DID NOT follow was well, everything I have been given advice on has helped me in every way so yeah.

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) You know there are so many choices in life and I choose to make good ones each day. I’ve been told that people look up to me on the reservation and to other people who are off and not of my tribe. I feel good when people tell me through Facebook or Instagram that they enjoy all that I do for the people. I don’t tell people to look up to me because I don’t see what they see in me. I was always told that it doesn’t matter what I you want to be it’s WHO you want to be as a person, as a member of society. No matter what I do in life I always want to be modest, humble, giving, selfless, honest, kind, to have integrity, to honor my people, and to uplift the generations. In my role as Miss Indian Arizona, I am privileged to have this title happen for me early in my life. To wear the crown on behalf of everyone in Arizona I travel to places to represent 21 Native American tribes and to represent the Apache people nationally. I think what shapes me to be a better role model for Native Americans is under the able guidance from the Miss Indian Arizona Association. I just thank the Creator for giving me incentive to do what I do.

Q) What advice would you give someone just starting out in pageants and/or powwows? What do you wish you knew before you started?

A) I can advise them that whatever pageant they are running for that the People have a right to have an ambassador with Integrity and who is honorable. Always make enormous sacrifices because the people believe in something bigger than yourself. I wish I knew that I have to have a lot of hope and faith in myself to go on each day knowing that I have support coming from so many people.

Q) Anything else you'd like to share with us?

A) When I decided to try out for Miss Indian Arizona several months ago I did it because I thought it would be a good experience. But during the competition and up to the point of my coronation my motives have changed. I now recognize that this is an opportunity for me to make a difference every day in every person’s life by accepting all people in friendly open and nonjudgmental manner, this is a personal commitment because I know what it’s like to feel that I wasn’t good enough, like I didn’t measure up or that I didn’t really “belong.” These feelings of inadequacy and isolation should not be experienced and I will always work with an open heart to accept and knowledge all people, of all races and all societies, no matter their income or educational levels. When a person feels unaccepted it can lead to destructive behaviors that hurt us all in ways far greater than the obvious of crime and health impacts but in true devastation of suicide and personal suffering. I believe that spiritual faith makes the impossible possible; and that with my own personal faith I continue to work through my feelings of inadequacy. Because of my faith based life, today I can honestly say some of my “impossible” have been removed and replaced with limitless possibilities. I know that as a family (whether small or extended family unit), as a community, city, state or tribe we can heal and move forward to happier and healthier days simply by extending a helping hand to one another. I believe in the strength behind my dreams and I will always honor that power.

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