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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


December 14, 2002 - Issue 76


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Miss NCAI Scholarship Pageant

by Alyssa Burhans Miss NCAI Scholarship Pageant Coordinator
Photo 1-Karen-Irene Serna, Gila River Indian Community, Miss NCAI 2002; Photo-2 L to R: Tamara James, Yakama Indian Nation, Miss Congeniality; Karen-Irene Serna, Gila River Indian Community, Miss NCAI 2002; Alicia Childs, Tohono O'odham Nation, Miss NCAI Runner-Up, Best Talent. Photo credit: Joe Guzman Photography, San Diego, CA
Karen-Irene Serna, Gila River Indian Community, Miss NCAI 2002The 34th Annual Miss National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Scholarship Pageant was held in San Diego, November 9-11, 2002, in conjunction with the annual NCAI convention. NCAI was founded in 1944 and is the oldest as well as the largest tribal government organization in the United States, which serves as a forum for consensus-based policy development among its membership. The Miss NCAI Scholarship Pageant was created to recognize outstanding young Indian women and was first held in 1969 making it the longest running pageant for American Indian women. The Miss NCAI Pageant focuses on both traditional and contemporary knowledge of tribal culture, government, current tribal issues, and the current challenges that face American Indian Nations.

This year, five contestants vied for the prestige and the title of Miss NCAI. Prior to pageant night, the contestants competed in an essay competition, were interviewed by a panel of judges, and made several public appearances. On pageant night, each of the contestants competed in the talent showcase, as well as the evening gown and impromptu portions of the event.

The talent showcase highlighted the unique cultures and the diversity of Indian Country. Alicia Childs from the Tohono O’odham Nation (Arizona) sang the National Anthem in the Tohono O'odham language and another song titled "The Children's Shrine," dedicated to the young children that lost their lives attempting to cross into the U.S. over the southern border of the Tohono O’odham Nation. Amber Ebarb, a member of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, performed a two-part piece that symbolized Native Alaskans' life in two cultures. The first part consisted of a Tlingit entrance song and dance in full regalia and was followed by a performance of an excerpt from Weber's Grand Duo Concertante for clarinet. Tamara James from the Yakama Indian Nation (Washington) performed the Feather Dance while her mother sang on stage with her. Karen-Irene Serna from the Gila River Indian Community (Arizona) sang a song she composed in the Akimel O'odham language; it was followed with a Pee-Posh blessing dance. Finally, Cinammon Rogers from the Hupa Valley Indian Tribe (California) spoke about the challenges her tribal community faces with regard to the dwindling water in the Klamath River and it’s effects on the salmon population.

L to R: Tamara James, Yakama Indian Nation, Miss Congeniality; Karen-Irene Serna, Gila River Indian Community, Miss NCAI 2002; Alicia Childs, Tohono O'odham Nation, Miss NCAI Runner-Up, Best Talent.Ponka-We Victors, from the Ponca and Tohono O’odham Nations, passed the title of Miss NCAI to Karen-Irene Serna of the Gila River Indian Community in a final culmination of the 3-day festivities. Serna will carry the title of Miss NCAI 2002-2003. She was awarded a generous $5000 scholarship to continue her studies at the South Mountain Community College where she is majoring in English and Art. Alicia Childs was the runner-up and also the recipient of the Best Talent Award. Rounding out the awards was Tamara James, who was awarded Miss Congeniality from her peers. Serna will serve as a goodwill ambassador for NCAI and Indian Country, as well as to promote cross-cultural awareness to further the understanding of the diversity and challenges of Indian Nations.

The panel of judges included Mary Kim Titla (San Carlos Apache) news reporter with Channel 12 News in Phoenix; Apesanahkwat (Menominee) actor; Letha Lamb (Gila River Indian Community) of Whirlwind Productions; and Cory Witherall (Navajo) professional race car driver.

To request further information about the Miss NCAI Scholarship Pageant Program, qualifications on becoming a Miss NCAI Contestant, or to request an appearance, please contact:


Alyssa Burhans
Miss NCAI Scholarship Pageant Coordinator
PO Box 80036
Minneapolis, MN 55408 Profiles "Miss NCAI"

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