Kansas Begaye is ready to pass the torch.
The reigning Miss Indian World has spent a year traveling and doing education outreach as part of her platform.
Begaye, who is Navajo, is the 29th Miss Indian World and at this year’s Gathering of Nations, she will help crown the 30th winner.
“It’s been an amazing year,” Begaye says. “To think that this time last year, I was just a contestant with a dream. It has all gone by so fast.”
The 2014 Miss Indian World Pageant will kick off the Gathering of Nations on Thursday, April 24, at the Albuquerque Convention Center.
Gathering of Nations brings together the world’s largest group of Native American and indigenous people. The powwow hosts more than 10,000 performers each year, and more than 700 tribes from throughout the world are represented.
In addition to the pageant, there is music held on Stage 49, which will see dozens of musicians. There also is a dance competition. The categories for dance include: Elders, 70 years and older; Golden Age, for those 55-69 years old; Adults are 19-54 years old; Teens range from 13-18 years old; Juniors are 7-12 years old; and Tiny Tots range from 6 years and under. There is a $2,000 award for first place in all adult categories (19-54).
According to Melonie Mathews, coordinator for Miss Indian World Pageant, 23 Native American women will represent their various tribes and traditions. Each woman will compete in the areas of tribal knowledge, dancing ability, public speaking and personality assessment.
“Miss Indian World is one of the most prestigious honors in the Native American and indigenous world, and the winner will serve as a role model for all Native Americans,” Mathews says. “She will travel the world educating others about tribal and cultural traditions, and bring together native and indigenous people.”
Mathews has been the coordinator for the pageant for 20 years and has traveled with previous winners.
“For the first five years, I didn’t travel because I was scared of flying,” Mathews says. “But to see the impact that these women make in the communities is amazing. It’s what we developed the pageant to be like. It’s more about spreading the message.”
Begaye says what she’s enjoyed most about her time as Miss Indian World is the opportunity to talk about education to native people. The University of New Mexico alumna wanted to talk mostly about higher education.
“There’s more out there for everyone,” Begaye says. “My platform was to show the youth that you can attend college and achieve anything you set out to do. It takes a lot of hard work. Nothing is handed to you. With hard work it all can happen.”
As the curtain begins to fall for Begaye and her title, she’s looking forward to the future. She wants to go back to graduate school and focus on her singing career.
“The next step for me is to win a Grammy,” she says. “I had tried for Miss Indian World five years ago and nothing happened. Then I tried again and won. I’m setting my sights on the Grammy Award now.”
Mathews says the new Miss Indian World will be crowned at 7:30 p.m. April 26 at the powwow.
Tickets for the Miss Indian World Pageant cost $14 and are available at the Albuquerque Convention Center.