LAKE, Minn. - When Delena Smith entered the coliseum in Albuquerque,
N.M., for the Gathering of Nations Powwow, she found the drum beats,
bells, jingles and rattle sounds of 5,000 dancers and 100 drum groups
23, a Head Start teacher on Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota, walked
out of the largest Indian event in the nation April 24 with the
crown of Miss Indian World.
a once-in-a-lifetime experience in her journey - her life path.
She represents who we are as Anishinaabeg people," said Larry
Stillday, spiritual leader of the tribe who prayed at an honoring
ceremony for her Wednesday in Red Lake.
the new Miss Indian World, her first appointment was to go to the
school and give all her 16 Head Start students a hug. During the
honoring ceremony, the young students hung around their teacher
waiting for a smile and a hug as she received blankets, flowers
and gifts. Toward the end of the honoring ceremony the Head Start
students returned the gesture by each giving her a rose.
is much bigger than her rural reservation home in Red Lake. But
Smith was more intimidated by the beauty, poise and ease of the
other 16 candidates who were competing for Miss Indian World. After
she got to know the girls, she said, things were more relaxed.
learned a lot.
learned the differences between Eskimo and Athabascan people who
live in Alaska and I learned the different styles of the Southwest
turn, Smith taught the other contestants about the traditional jingle
dress. Jingle dresses, she said, were medicine dresses used only
in ceremonies. Today they have been adopted into modern society
as a contemporary style for dancing.
knows jingle dress dancing. Dancing is a part of her life. She said
she started dancing nearly before she could walk. Smith said she
dances for two hours every day without the jingle dress and to a
tape recorder. Those strenuous dancing exercises not only keep her
in shape, but hone her skills as a dancer.
pageant wasn't all dancing and dressing in traditional outfits.
She had to write a five-page essay, answer an impromptu question
in front of an audience, dance in the contest and perform a talent.
For the talent she told the story of the dream catcher, about Nokomis
and the spider.
set a goal for herself when she was just a child, she said. She
wanted the opportunity to show the nation that beautiful and educated
women live on the reservations, too. Smith wanted to portray the
American Indian culture in a positive way.
now she will be living at Red Lake and at home with her parents,
Norine and Paul Smith, but she said she'll leave options open for