ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — With pow-wow season in full swing, thousands of dancers and vendors descended upon Albuquerque, N.M. for the annual Gathering of Nations Pow-Wow. Happening alongside the Gathering was the Miss Indian World 2012 competition.
Miss Florida Seminole Jewel Buck made the trip to Albuquerque on April 24 for the three-day competition and competed against 26 young women from April 26-28 for the title of Miss Indian World. The winner represents Indigenous people all around the world.
The competition consists of an interview, a traditional talent exhibition, a dance competition and a personal essay.
“It’s not about the competition anymore,” Buck said. “It’s about making new, lifelong friends.”
For the talent portion, Buck sang a traditional Creek hymn and proceeded to translate the hymn for the audience. Several Tribal members attended the talent competition and said Buck represented the Tribe with dignity and honor. Buck’s stage presence and personality made a lasting impression on all those in attendance.
On the last night of the Gathering, all 27 contestants circled “The Pit” at the University of New Mexico to hear the final results of Miss Indian World 2012. Nikki Santos, representing the Coeur d’Alene/Taino Tribes of Marrysville, Wa., was announced as second runner-up, and Joanne Morales-Gonzales, representing the Taino people of Puerto Rico, was announced as first runner-up. Morales-Gonzales is the first woman of her Tribe to compete for the Miss Indian World title. Finally, the new Miss Indian World crown was given to 22-year-old Jessa Rae Growing Thunder, representing the Fort Peck Assiniboine/Sioux Tribes of Poplar, Mont.
After the crowning, the new Miss Indian World and fellow honorees were escorted to meet the press, and Buck congratulated the winner.
“I got to know Jessa Rae very well,” Buck said. “My advice to her is to treat every experience like your last because one year goes by fast.”
The two friends will get to see each other once again at the annual Miss Florida Seminole Princess Pageant, as Miss Indian World will be an official judge selecting the new Miss Florida Seminole and Junior Miss Florida Seminole this summer.
Buck represented the Seminole Tribe of Florida proudly and left the competition with a great experience and new friends among the strong Native woman throughout Indian Country.
“I would not change a single thing,” Buck said of her experience. “Walking into Grand Entry was like walking into a football stadium. As we were walking through the thousands of people and they kept cheering us on, we all walked with such pride in our own cultures.”