members of the media photograph the event, Miss Florida Seminole
Destiny Nunez competes in the Miss Indian World pageant dance
competition in "The Pit" of the University of New Mexico in
Albuquerque April 29.
(photo by Beverly Bidney)
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. Miss Florida Seminole Destiny Nunez
trained since November for the Miss Indian World Pageant and last
month, she and 23 other contestants from throughout Indian Country
vied for the crown. Although she didn't win the title, Nunez emerged
as a winner in other ways.
"I'm really proud of myself," she said. "Before this year, I
would have never put myself in this situation."
A naturally shy person, Nunez entered the Miss Florida Seminole
Princess Pageant last summer to help her overcome anxiety. The strategy
worked. Nunez is now comfortable speaking to people she doesn't
know and in front of a crowd.
The Miss Indian World Pageant, part of the Gathering of Nations
April 28-30, required contestants to present a cultural talent,
speak extemporaneously in front of a crowd on the popular Stage
49 venue and dance competitively for the judges.
The pageant began April 28 with the talent presentation in the
Albuquerque Convention Center. Contestants showed expertise in their
Tribe's culture by telling stories, demonstrating dance moves, sharing
historical facts and explaining the significance of traditional
garb. Some girls were comfortable on stage; others showed their
"These ladies are all awesome," said Miss Indian World committee
member Beulah Sunrise. "You never know how it will turn out."
Nunez was confident as she told a story of survival and dignity
from the time of the Seminole wars. She said a war party went out
of the village and didn't return, leaving a boy to wait for his
father. Finally, the boy ventured out to look for him and found
his father burying the victims of a massacre in a nearby village.
Despite the threat of more soldiers coming to destroy the Seminole
people, the man honored the dead and left a lasting impression on
Florida Seminole Destiny Nunez waves to the audience April
28 during the talent competition at the Miss Indian World
Pageant in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
(photo by Beverly Bidney)
All the contestants exhibited pride in their heritage.
"I may not be rich with money but I am wealthy with my language,
history and culture," said Edith Starr, San Carlos Apache, who spoke
while showing her expertise at a hoop dance.
Junior Miss Florida Seminole Skyla Osceola attended Gathering
of Nations to walk in the Grand Entries with royalty from other
Tribes and to get a feel for the pageant in case she decides to
compete next year. According to Sunrise, contestants do not have
to be Tribal royalty but many Tribes send their princesses to represent
"If I ever do compete, I'll know what to expect and have an
advantage," Osceola said. "I'm also looking forward to the Grand
An accomplished basketball player, Osceola competed in the Princess
Pageant last summer because of a knee injury which required surgery.
Being royalty has been a new and exciting adventure for her.
"Playing sports and being a princess are so different," she
said. "As Junior Miss, I have to make appearances and be ready to
speak. When I play basketball, I just play. Both are fun and I love
doing them both equally. It's been a great experience."
Next on the Miss Indian World contestants' busy schedule was
the impromptu speaking event on Stage 49. Although the day was cold
and blustery with rain and some hail, the contestants spoke confidently
from the heart. Nunez described the best thing about the Seminole
"We are unconquered and never gave up," she said. "That is why
I'm proud to be a Seminole."
The Miss Indian World contestants had an honored place in all
four Grand Entries. They came out smiling and waving right behind
the head dancers and before the rest of the 3,000 participants filled
"The Pit" arena floor at the University of New Mexico.
Prior to the dance competition April 29, announcer Sunrise explained
to the judges that the contest was meant to be an interpretive dance
and could be in typical pow-wow or their Tribal styles.
"Judge them on the expressiveness of the dance," she said.
The 23 hopefuls demonstrated their skills in a variety of dances
such as shawl, jingle and traditional styles. Dressed in a time-honored
patchwork skirt and cape, Nunez did a quietly dignified stomp dance.
The new Miss Indian World was crowned April 30 after the evening
Grand Entry. The contestants showed grace and camaraderie as prizes
were awarded for Miss Congeniality, best essay, public speaker,
interview, talent, dance, second and first runners up.
Danielle Ta'Sheena Finn, Standing Rock Sioux, from Porcupine,
North Dakota, won the title to rousing applause from the other contenders.
They all took a victory lap around the floor, while waving to the
"All the girls are really nice and everyone is united," Nunez
said. "It's been empowering to be around these strong Native women."