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Personal growth continues to reign with princess contest winners

Sarah Cummins

8/2/2001 12:00:00 AM

Nathan Issac (Aamjiwnaang First Nation) beads a crown for the winner of the Junior Miss Saginaw Ojibwe Princess contest. "The design is all Ojibwe floral to represent the Tribe here and part of the Tribal logo. I'm using as many colors as I can to make it as bright as I can. We wanted it to be big and beautiful to give the younger girls who aren't running a goal." Deadline to enter this competition and the Miss Three Fires contest is Aug. 3.

Two young Native American women will experience a crowning moment on Aug. 4 as they are chosen to be princesses in separate competitions.

Applications are still being accepted for the Miss Three Fires Princess and Junior Miss Saginaw Ojibwe Princess contests. Deadline for applications is Aug. 3.

"I would encourage any young girl who wants to run to go for it, because it's a confidence builder," explained Melissa Montoya, a former princess. "Being the princess is an honor, but it's fun too. It's a responsibility, but people shouldn't want to shy away from it or be intimidated by it."

Montoya reigned in 1996 as Miss Saginaw Ojibwe Princess. The title was changed last year to "junior miss" when the minimum age limit was dropped from 14 to 8 years old.

Other criteria for both competitions include having a knowledge of Tribal traditions and not having any children. Princesses also may not have ever been married.

Women participating in the Miss Three Fires Princess contest must be 14 to 17 years old, belong to a federally recognized Tribe and be able to verify their Tribal affiliation. This princess represents all Native Americans throughout Michigan.

The remaining criteria for Junior Miss Saginaw Ojibwe Princess include membership in the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe with verifiable Tribal affiliation. Contestants must also be between 8 and 17 years old. The title holder represents the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan.

"It helped me, because there are certain standards for princesses, because you have to stay drug and alcohol free," explained Dayna Johansen, who was Miss Saginaw Ojibwe Princess for three consecutive years beginning in 1997. "It helped me stay on track to get where I am today." Johansen is studying criminal justice and psychology at Michigan State University.

The contestants will be judged on a point system based on a private interview, dance competition and regalia.

"To me, princesses represent our Tribe and reflect our culture," said Powwow Committee Chairperson Mary Perez. "There are a lot of Tribes out there who don't have people who are cultural."

The judges will be looking for young women who are good role models and understand the traditions, according to the first Miss Saginaw Ojibwe Princess Summer (Peters) Begay.

"They need to be good role models that don't drink or smoke and keep a good reputation, because they represent the Tribe," explained Begay. "They need to have a good knowledge of the culture, but they don't have to know everything. They need to be willing to learn. The princess needs to go out and not be shy and talk about the Tribe. They need to conduct themselves in a good light."

Some of the previous princesses have even passed knowledge of traditions on to those willing to learn.

"I don't see very many people out here dancing," said Montoya. "I'll do whatever I can to help people do it. Once they figure out how to make regalia, the sky's the limit. They can pass it on to their brothers and sisters and cousins or whoever. Then, hopefully, we'll have more dancers in the community."

While representing the Tribe, current Junior Miss Saginaw Ojibwe Princess Joelle Peters has had many unique experiences.

"It's adventurous," stated Peters. "It's an opportunity for new experiences and it broadens your horizon for learning about different cultures. I'd encourage a lot of other girls to run. It's an awesome experience."