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True Native Beauty: Miss First Nations University of Canada is a Role Model!

Posted By PowWows.com May 7th, 2015 Last Updated on: May 7th, 2015

Miss First Nations University of Canada 2015-6!

Miss First Nations University of Canada 2015-6!

A true Native Beauty!

A true Native Beauty!

Interview by Dawn Karima, Native American Culture Editor

Educated Native: Winona Pratt!

Educated Native: Winona Pratt!

Stunning Winona Pratt is a student, a powwow dancer and a strong Native Lady! She also happens to be the new Miss First Nations University of Canada 2015-6! Excited by her recent win, she delights Powwows.com readers with her journey to the title!

DK: Congratulations! I paid for most of my Master's Degree by winning pageants and I know what it takes to win and to reach your goal! I'm so happy for you! Introduce yourself to us please?

Winona Pratt and her brother enjoy a family smile at her crowning!

Winona Pratt and her brother enjoy a family smile at her crowning!

WP: I am Winona Pratt I am Dakota and Annishnabe from Cote First Nation. I am 21 years old. I was born into a traditional family. I grew up learning and experiencing my traditional and cultural ways. My path and life choices are based upon that foundation. I have lived a drug and alcohol lifestyle. Being raised with this valuable traditional knowledge has been my foundation though out my life. I am a second year student at the First Nations University of Canada. Im majoring in Justice Studies, my future career goals are to one day become a successful lawyer. I enjoy going to pow-wows and mainly spending time with my family. I believe that being with family is the most important thing in my life.

DK: Agreed! One thing about being part of a tribe is that you have a great extended family! Tell us about your Tribe/Nation?

WP: I am a member of Cote First Nation. Cote is an Ojibway First Nation located in Southeastern Saskatchewan Canada. Historically the people of Cote have lived in Saskatchewan for at least 250 to 300 years. Today Cote has over 20,00 acres of land and have a total of 3,483 registered band members. We have a heritage that lives on and continues to thrive from our Elders, that passes down to our younger generations. My people continue to practice our traditional ceremonies and take part in our beautiful culture. My people and rich heritage have survived Residential Schools, and the 1876 Indian Act that abolished our sacred ceremonies and traditional ways. Our people remain strong and our rich heritage and traditional knowledge remain.

DK:Wonderfully said! What are some of the lessons you've learned from your tribal culture?

WP: I am so proud and honored to have been born into such a amazing and beautiful culture! I was taught by my parents and grandparents that you must always pray and be thankful. To always respect Mother-Earth and all of creation and be proud of who I am; as an First Nations Woman. I have attended many ceremonies though-out my life and participate in the round dances that the First Nations University puts on for the students. I enjoy listening to pow-wow and ceremony songs. In University I took a Dakota Language class, one of the many amazing opportunities the FNUniv has to offer to First Nations students. I was taught to always carry my traditions, so that one day I can teach our future generations. As our ancestors have done for us.

 

Family First for Miss First Nations University of Canada!

Family First for Miss First Nations University of Canada!

DK: Oh, you said the magic word—powwows!!! We love powwows around here! Do you?

WP: Yes, I love pow-wows. I have been attending pow-wows since I could walk. Pow-wows have always been a part of my life. I enjoy going to pow-wows and participating and showing others my beautiful culture. I admire the drum as it is the heart beat of our people. I attend all the local pow-wows in Saskatchewan and Manitoba and attended a few in the United States in the past few years.

DK: Why are powwows so important to you?

WP: Pow-wows give me a sense of pride, belonging and identity as a First Nations individual. Participating in pow-wows make me feel proud to be First Nations. It is amazing to be able to be around your relatives for the weekend and enjoy together song, dance and good company and occasionally a good Indian Taco. That is not something you can do everyday. Pow-wows are a celebration to celebrate who you are as First Nations people, and to share that with others. I think that is so important to be proud of who you are and where you come from. Our ancestors were forbidden from their cultures and Pow-wows bring us back together with our people in all four directions to enjoy these celebrations.

DK: I'm in total agreement! Powwows are special! So, now that you are crowned, can you tell us about how it feels to be Miss First Nations University of Canada?

WP: When it was announced that I won the title to Miss First Nations University of Canada 2015-16, I was in shock and immediately burst out in tears. It has been my dream since I was in 8th grade to run for Miss FNUniv. I always looked up to the young woman that held the title as Miss FNUniv. I had a goal to get a post-secondary education since I was little and I knew that I wanted to go to the First Nations University one day as well as that dream to become Miss FNUniv. To accomplish this dream I felt very accomplished and proud of myself. I went for Miss FNUniv 2014-15 last year and I was first runner up and lost to 1 point. It was a hard to lose to 1 point the year before; I was discouraged. But, I felt that running in this year pageant was something I had to do. Not only for myself, but for my family and for my late grandparents Delbert and Mable Whitehawk. They taught me to never give up on my dreams. Most of all, re-running for Miss FNUniv after my loss at last years pageant, I felt that I needed to set that example for future young woman pageant contestants and for other First Nation and Native American youth to never give up on their dreams. To always pursue them no matter what obstacles or barriers are thrown your way. After I was crowned, I was walking around looking at the booths with my family and there was these young teenage girls and little girls coming up to me to talk to me and asking for pictures. I felt so honored to be able to set a good example for them and be a positive role model for our First Nations youth. There was many other people shaking my hands and congratulating me for the win when I was walking around the pow-wow.

Winona Pratt explains that "I am standing with an elder veteran. His name is Toney Cote and he's from my reserve. He is one of the founders of the FNUniv and long time security guard."

Winona Pratt explains that “I am standing with an elder veteran. His name is Toney Cote and he's from my reserve. He is one of the founders of the FNUniv and long time security guard.”

DK: Has life changed for you since your reign?

WP: I have only held the title of Miss First Nations for a week. However, there are many First Nations youth adding me on Facebook and messaging me for advice. One in particular was asking me how she can get involved with pow-wow and what steps she has to take to get prepared to come into the pow-wow circle. As well as asking me what was my advice on what she can dance. She was split between Fancy Shawl or Jingle dress dancing. I told her to follow her passion. I thought that was amazing. I felt so honored that she was asking me for advice. I am looking forward to more First Nations youth asking me for advice and being that positive role model that they can look up to.

DK: You are certainly a positive role model! How would you like to use your title to help others?

WP: During my reign, I would like to promote post- secondary education to our First Nations Youth. Education is so important, it opens up so many opportunities to better one's life. I believe it will help First Nations people continue to become strong individuals and break those false assumptions and stereotypes that Non-First Nations people may have. We need more First Nations businessmen, doctors, lawyers and politicians in our workforce. As well promoting drug and alcohol free lifestyles and seeking our valuable traditional knowledge from our Elders.

DK: You seem so well grounded and visionary! Do you have a vision for your life after your reign?

WP: What's next after my reign? I will continue to pursue my degree in Justice Studies and then go on to Law School for my Master's in Law. It will take a few long years, but when you are passionate about something, time does not matter. I look forward to my remaining years in school.

DK: You mentioned that you loved to share your advice with young people, so what's some of the advice that has helped you through your life?

WP: I have received lots of positive advice throughout my life, all of which I follow. My Late grandparents Delbert and Mable Whitehawk instilled in every one of their children and grandchildren to never give up and always follow your dreams. To stay away from drugs and alcohol and to get a good post secondary education. My Grandpa Delbert said that Higher Education was the key to better our lives as First Nations people. His wish was to see his grandchildren go to school and get educated. My parents always taught me that I must always work hard for the things that I want, because nothing was going to be given to me. If I wanted something I had to work hard and go out there and get it myself. But most of all stay close to the Creator and to hold close to my cultural and traditional ways.

"The man in the grey suit is Tom Benjo and he is the creator of my beautiful crown and sash," Winona Pratt says," his mother is in the purple."

“The man in the grey suit is Tom Benjo and he is the creator of my beautiful crown and sash,” Winona Pratt says,” his mother is in the purple.”

DK: Sounds like a role model to me!

WP: I see myself as a role model for First Nations and Native American Youth. I guess I have always been a role model among my peers. In High School I was in Leadership. I was also the Vice President of Native Club at my High School in Shelton Washington and graduated with Honors. I have lived a life surrounded by my culture and traditions and remained drug and alcohol free. Being a positive role model makes me feel proud. I hope that I can inspire and influence our younger generations to to the same. To seek out traditional knowledge instead of doing drugs or alcohol. As well as setting those goals to get a higher education and attend the First Nations University of Canada. I also hope to inspire the young people to become inspirations and positive role models for their peers and for their families.

DK: Pageants were certainly the start of my career in music and media. So, what would you say to future pageant contestants to help them along their path?

WP: I would like to tell those young woman who are running in future pageants to work hard and to never give up on their dreams. If you lose once no matter how many points you are away from the title you are strong to get up in front of all those people and speak. You are all strong and all beautiful and smart women. Do not feel discouraged if you lose, get up, dust yourself off and go back out there and compete again. This will prove to others that you are strong that no matter the obsticles thrown at you, you had the bravery and the courage to come back and compete again no matter what might happen. Those are the people I look up too, the ones that can lose, but still have that courage to come back. Dont ever give up on your dreams no matter what they are. Keep trying and work hard. You do not need a title or a crown to be an active role model for your peers or for our younger generations. Get involved in your community and make positive changes and they will not go unnoticed.

DK: It's been so uplifting to visit with you! Anything else you'd like to share?

WP: I am so honored to be able to represent and be an ambassador for this beautiful institution The First Nations University of Canada. It is a very unique and the only one of its kind in Canada. It is an institution that surrounds students around First Nations cultures and traditions, all while getting a valuable post secondary education. It is about bringing culture and education together and promoting our own teachings and our perspectives of traditions onto others. It is an amazing and very unique institution, I am honored to call the FNUniv my home away from home. I am thankful for how my parents raised me and all the many teachings they have taught me to get me where I am today. I look forward to being an ambassador, positive role model and representitive for the First Nations University of Canada.

DK: Thank you! See you on the Powwow Trail!
WP: Thanks!

MFN


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patricia

way to go, you will do all our first nations people proud, thank you for your dedication and being a leader for the first nations women. many prayers for your journey throughout your life.
Wela’lin

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