September 22nd, 2015 Last Updated on: September 22nd, 2015
Q) Please tell us about yourself. What do you want us to know?
A) I am 26 years old from the Great Smoky Mountains of Cherokee, North Carolina. God has blessed me with a wonderful family that encourages me and supports me in all of my endeavors. My mom and dad have provided me with a solid support system that has strengthened my ability to be successful. Most importantly, they pray for me. Reggie, Felix, Shelby, and King are my inspiration and I try my very best to be a good role model for them to look up to.
I obtained a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina – Asheville in business management in 2011. I also obtained an associate’s degree from Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College in Applied Science – dental hygiene in 2014. I am a dental hygienist with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Children’s Dental Program. I work directly with the children in our orthodontic program. I absolutely love my job, working with our Cherokee kids, and teaching them to take care of their teeth!!! My favorite color is pink and I enjoy shopping, mostly window shopping. Being from the south, I sure do love sweet tea. (It’s important to try to rinse with water after drinking it, though).
Q) What is your tribal heritage and affiliation?
A) What do you want us to know about your people? I am an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. I belong to the Blue Clan and live in the beautiful Big Cove community. We are still here, trying hard to keep our culture and traditions alive. It definitely makes my heart smile to see the children at the New Kituwah Language Immersion Academy, speaking to each other in our Cherokee language and learning our traditional dances. I would like to invite each of you to come and visit us in Cherokee, North Carolina. We would love to share our story with you!
Q)What are some ways that you incorporate your tribal lifeways into your life?
One way that I incorporate tribal lifeways into my life is by staying connected and involved with my tribe in various capacities. This year, I have had the opportunity to help coordinate the Miss Cherokee Pageant with my cousin, Rachel Hicks Slee. I have also helped my cousin Shelby prepare to compete in the Little Miss Cherokee Pageant. Preparation for the pageants involves really digging deep and trying to learn more about our Cherokee culture and traditions. Our family has worked hard and learned to make our traditional pucker toe moccasins and feather cape for Shelby to wear with pride in her pageant. These experiences really do bring us closer together as a family and as a tribe. It is absolutely wonderful to have the opportunity to work with all the girls as they compete to represent our tribe and work hard to keep our culture and traditions alive.
Q) Do you attend powwows? What do powwows mean to you? Why do you think they are important?
A) I try to attend the local powwows, here in Cherokee. Powwows are very important, as they are a wonderful place to gather and socialize with Native Americans from all over the country. I enjoy watching the different dances and looking at the beautiful arts and crafts. I am so excited and look forward to attending the Gathering of Nations Powwow in April as Miss Native American USA.
Q) What was it like when you heard the announcement that you won? Has your life changed since then? How?
A) I was in complete shock when my name was announced as Miss Native American USA 2015! That very moment felt so surreal and full of excitement; and then I remembered that my parents were not able to be there with me because my dad had been really sick. I knew they would be so proud, so I was filled with so many different types of emotions that night. I missed them so much, but I was thankful that my cousins, Reyna and Shelby, were able to be at the pageant. Shelby gave me the biggest hug that night, and I knew right then and there that she was proud. The best feeling in the world was knowing that there were so many people praying for me that day. I felt every single one, as everything seemed to go perfectly. Immediately after the pageant, my Facebook blew up with messages, notifications, friend requests, and congratulatory wishes. I have never received so many “likes” on a status or picture until now. This journey has definitely been one of those once in a lifetime experiences that I will never forget.
Q) What are some of the experiences that you are having as a titleholder?
A) I feel like my voice matters. People want to talk to me and acknowledge me, that wouldn’t before I won the title, and I love it! My family and tribe have expressed to me how very proud they are of me, and that makes me happy. I have been able to make connections with people that care about Native Americans and dental health as much as I do, and I look forward to working with them to make a difference. I have been wanting to travel out west for the longest time, and this title has already allowed me the opportunity to take a quick trip to the beautiful state of New Mexico. I enjoy travelling and I can’t wait to see where I’ll get to travel to next.
Q) What are some of the issues that you are promoting during your reign? What is your platform? How are you raising awareness throughout your reign?
A) As a dental hygienist, I will use the Miss Native American USA title as a microphone to promote my message about the importance of dental health and help create beautiful, healthy smiles throughout Indian Country. I will focus on preventing early childhood caries, otherwise known as cavities. I would love to have the opportunity to visit different tribes throughout the United States and educate our children about the importance of brushing and flossing, while dressed as the Tooth Fairy. My goal is to be known as the Native American Tooth Fairy, in hopes of creating an atmosphere where our children feel that they can trust me. I will dress in my traditional Cherokee clothing, and of course I will wear my Tooth Fairy wings. I have great intentions of helping to reduce dental anxiety for our Native American youth through several different approaches and projects during my reign. Our children deserve to smile bright because God loves each and every one of them!
It is my duty to share my knowledge and educate Native American people about oral health. Many people are unaware of the link between oral health and overall health. Poor oral health can have negative effects on diabetes, heart problems, and pregnancy to name a few. Drug and alcohol abuse can also have negative effects on oral health that many people are unaware of until it’s too late. Be sure to brush 2x a day for 2 full minutes and floss 1x a day. It is very important that you schedule a dental appointment every 6 months.
We have our differences when it comes to our culture and traditions, but one thing we all have in common, is that the most beautiful thing we can wear is our smile. We are so blessed as Native Americans. Be proud of who you are and where you come from; and be sure to smile about it.
Q) What’s next after your reign?
A) I am considering continuing my education, but I am undecided if I want to pursue a master’s degree in public health or receive training to become a dental therapist.
Q) What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
A) My parents have always encouraged me to pray about things, instead of worrying about things. This is the best piece of advice that I have ever received because I am a strong believer in prayer. What piece of advice are you glad that you did not follow? When I expressed interest in becoming a dental hygienist, several people advised me not to do it because I would be working with nasty mouths. I was aware of that, and I was hesitant as to whether or not I really wanted to pursue a career in the dental field. I eventually went for it and I’m glad I did! I do see some nasty mouths, but I also see healthy ones. The difference I can make, always amazes me. If only you could see some of the before and after photos. The moral of the story is that there are always going to be positives and negatives that come along with any path you choose to take. Don’t let the negatives push you away from doing what you feel like you are meant to do. Accept the challenge and the positive aspects will be that much more rewarding!
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) I know that I am a role model for Native Americans and I will do everything that I can to help fellow Native Americans accomplish their goals and realize their potential. I am far from perfect. I make mistakes and I have faced several struggles and challenges throughout my lifetime. Reaching my goals and being where I am today has been far from easy. As Native Americans, we have the potential and ability to do anything we set our minds to. I strongly believe in prayer and I know that with God all things are possible.
Q) What advice would you give to someone just starting out in pageants?
A) You’ll never know unless you try. I have always been a shy person, but I found the courage and determination to go after my goals and overcome my fear of public speaking. If I didn’t go out of my comfort zone and try, I would have never known that I have the potential to be Miss Native American USA!
Home » Native American Articles » Native American Culture »