May 13th, 2015 Last Updated on: May 13th, 2015
Her bright smile and graceful fancy shawl steps make Sassamin Weeden the perfect powwow princess! The current Mashpee Wampanoag powwow princess is 21 years young and an enrolled member of the federally recognized Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe located in Mashpee, Massachusetts.
Interview by Dawn Karima, Native American Culture Editor
DK: You are such a lovely Native lady! We're so pleased to speak with you about your Princess reign.
SW: Thank you for reaching out to me. It is always a blessing to share a little of myself, my people, and my journey with the rest of Indian country.
DK: Please introduce yourself to us?
SW: Wuneekesuq (Good Day!) Nutus8ees Sassamin Weeden (My name is Sassamin Weeden). I am 21 years young and an enrolled member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe located in Mashpee, Massachusetts. Some people may familiarize it with Cape Cod or the arm when looking at a map. Mashpee Wampanoag means “people of the first light” and “people from the east” because the sun rises and sets in our backyard.
DK: Wonderful! And you have a very special role within your tribe, right?
SW: I currently hold the title of the 2014-2015 Mashpee Wampanoag powwow princess. To become powwow princess, you must go through a process of an interview with a panel of elders, commonly our clan mothers, where they ask you questions about the history of the tribe, what you seek from the title, and most importantly what does being Wampanoag mean to you. Receiving this honor was a journey in itself. I ran the first year I was eligible and old enough to in 2010. Unfortunately the odds were not in my favor and I did not receive the reign. So, having faith, I continued to run again in 2011,2013, and 2014, where I finally reached my goal and my childhood dreams to represent my people. I stepped back during the year of 2012 because my best friend and former princess Keturah Peters was running and I had all my faith in her and I knew she would do a great job representing.
DK: After waiting so long, how did you feel when you were crowned at last?
SW: Hearing my name finally called as princess rather than runner up was just a relief and blessing. I didn't have much time to take in the moment when I saw my older brother Brian Weeden running towards me with joy and excitement then picking me off the ground. In that moment, it was so overwhelming, in a good way, to see my family running to me and my mother in tears.
DK: What a beautiful moment! What do powwows mean to you now?
SW: One of my duties is to travel powwow to powwow representing my people. I believe powwows are important because living in the white mans world, it helps us as Native people to remember who we are and the importance to instill our culture and traditions.
DK: With your many duties as princess, do you think of yourself as a role model?
SW: I've always looked at myself as a role model way before the sash and crown. I would have tribal youth asking me to teach them the fancy shawl dance (my style) or just help them improve their steps. It brings me joy when they approach me with the excitement to learn. I've recently started beading and I'm already getting asked to do lessons as well. It's truly a blessing. I am also involved with the United National Indian Tribal Youth organization also known as UNITY and have been for the last 4 years. I currently sit on the Executive Committee along with 11 other native youth from all over the U.S as the Northeast Area Representative and Vice-President. So not only am I seen as a role model in my community, but also throughout the nation. So many youth look up to me and tell me they wish to be in my shoes one day. The best part about being a role model is when you see them in action from dancing in the circle to having their voices heard by members of congress in which you know you're doing things right and you get that feeling of success. You just helped Indian country to grow! It's amazing.
DK: Yes it is! What advice would you give to those who look up to you and would like to follow in your moccasin prints?
SW The advice I would like to give to someone wishing to be princess one day is to be yourself and don't think “this is what they're looking for so I need to be that”. Embrace what makes you you and don't be afraid to show your personality because that's exactly what they're looking for, the real you! One more piece of advice would be to never give up on what you truly want in life. I've tried and tried for this title that I have now. With the right mind set and support group one day you will make it to where you want to be and if you don't, the creator may have something better waiting for you.
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