MSU student to represent Michigan nations at Miss Indian World competition in New Mexico
This week brings the Gathering of Nations Powwow in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
A highlight of the powwow includes the Miss Indian World competition, a chance for 35 young women from across the United States and Canada to represent their tribes and nations and share their talents.
One of the contestants was born and raised on the Grand Traverse Band Indian reservation in Peshawbestown, and she's a pre-med biology major at Michigan State University.
She will represent the Ottawa, Chippewa, Delaware and Potawatomi nations.
Beedoskah Stonefish joined Stateside Monday.
Listen to the conversation and postcard above, or read highlights below.
On the competition
“We’re judged on our traditional talent, public speaking, a dance competition, and a personal interview,” Stonefish said.
Traditional talent includes anything from storytelling to singing and dancing, according to Stonefish. She plans to perform a Jingle Dress Dance, a Chippewa tradition practiced in Michigan and the Great Lakes Tribes.
“I started dancing since I could walk, really,” Stonefish says. “My parents raised me in my culture.”
Though the judges haven’t given her questions to prepare in advance, Stonefish suspects she will be tested on her knowledge of tribal culture and history.
In 2012, Stonefish served as Miss Potawatomi Nations. She’s excited to be competing on a larger stage this week.
“It means a lot to me. I’m really humbled and honored and empowered,” she said. “I was born and raised around my culture and with traditional values instilled in me by my parents and grandparents, so I’m really confident in my own cultural knowledge and how I was raised. “
On her plans for the future
Stonefish says she wants to work as a family doctor on either her reservation or another reservation.
She’s passionate about both traditional healing practices and modern medicine.
“I’m a firm believer in ‘culture heals,’” She said. “I think if our people have a stronger identity, and a stronger sense of who they are, I think that would help heal a lot of ailments that Native Americans have.” Stonefish cited diabetes, high blood pressure and mental health issues among medical concerns facing Native Americans today.
On being Native American on campus
Stonefish is also passionate about promoting education on Native American reservations. She cites the low rates of high school graduation as a barrier to representation on college campuses.
“I think in order to get to the next level you have to get past high school, first” she said.
Stonefish recognizes the challenges associated with being part of a minority on campus, but she’d like to see more people embrace it.
“I also would encourage high school and middle school students to be the less than 1 percent,” she said. “It’s hard being in a class of 500 people and not have anybody of your race or culture in that class or having a professor of the same descent as you. It takes a lot of bravery and courage to be the less than 1 percent.”