SPOTLIGHT: Miss Native American USA
THE WOMEN BEHIND THE CROWN
My name is Ashley Na'ilihn Susan. I'm a proud member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe from Whiteriver, AZ. I am a Bear and Eagle clan. I also descend from the Walker River Paiute Tribe, an Agai'Dicutta (trout eater clan), located in Schurz, Nevada. I'm a full-time student at Glendale Community College finishing up my associates degrees in both science and psychology, in addition my certificate in linguistics for Spanish. I will be attending ASU next fall to pursue a degree in electrical engineering and psychology. I've always had a passion for math, going green and finding new efficient ways of clean energy. I chose psychology to understand behavior, actions, and research on how to help others. I find psychology extremely fascinating! I also can now speak, read, and write fluently in Spanish. I studied advanced Spanish at the University San Pablo in Madrid last summer and volunteered at a children's group home in Hermosillo, Mexico.
Learning a new language been an essential skill to further communicate, build relationships, get an insight into an entirely different culture other than my own, and explore different parts of the world. When I have free time I enjoy working out to Zumba. I'm a certified Zumba instructor and I'm always inspired by music from Bollywood, cumbia, and native northern drums. I'm always finding an excuse to dance. I love to cook and prepare fresh healthy meals for my younger siblings and my parents. I have for the last 3 years have volunteered as an assistant basketball coach to the Native Stars girl's team in Phoenix, AZ. The coaching basketball and encouraging the team is very important to me. I am proud and humble to work at being at my best, dedicating my time to make a difference for others. My overall highlight is spending quality time with my younger brother and sister. We love going to the movies together and hiking the mountains in Phoenix. My favorite personal moments is having time to spend at Barnes and Noble, find a good book, relax and read quietly.
THE GREATEST WEALTH IS HEALTH
My platform and mission as the Miss Native American USA 2016-17 is to promote wellness and living healthy. Our Native ancestors had understood what it meant to live on the Earth practicing good nutrition, being balanced not only physically but spiritually. We have always kept in shape from gathering, hunting, traditional dances and songs, sport games. Today we still practice those things traditions, along with sports such as basketball, volleyball, track, rodeo. We all need to protect our traditions in living healthy for together we can prevent diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Unfortunately in Indian country we have seen these diseases become prevalent, but they can be prevented by eating nutritious foods, keeping exercise as part of our weekly routine, and finding positive outlets for stress relief. It is up to our generation to continue to practice and teach our generations to come.
WHY MISS NATIVE AMERICAN USA?
Personally for me, the title was so much more than being a beauty queen. I had always looked up to the any pageant title holders as a little girl. My Mom took us to pageants in Arizona for years. My younger sister held the title of Miss Indian Arizona, my mother was a former Miss Indian America. They knew pageantry. This was really my first official pageant ever. I grew up partly on the reservation and the inner city of Phoenix. We traveled home to grandma's in Whiteriver every weekend. My Phoenix classmates had never met a Native American before.' Questions like" Do you still live in Tee-Pees? Does everyone speak English on reservations? ' This wasn't out of ignorance, but it was amazing how little they knew of Native Country and Native culture. This was the inspiration and mission in my mind to explore, and change that perception.
I felt having the opportunity to vie for Miss Native American USA would be an opportunity to bridge that gap. We are Natives, we still exist, there are over 562 federally recognized tribes across the USA, each with a unique language, tradition, people, government etc. The privilege for me was representing on a national level to natives and non-native the diversity and beauty of culture, the opportunity to meet with tribes and tribal leaders, understanding the concerns and issues of Indian country. My strength in anything is the native grandmas and grandpas, our native children, our youth, who need our support, our parents to feel like empowered heroes. I thought of home. I thought of all those things because that's what being a Miss Native American USA is all about. This is why I choose to vie for this title.
APPLYING FOR THE POSITION
The on-line applicationwas easily accessible on the MNAUSA pageant website. I read through the requirements, submitted the fee and completed application. I also scheduled an orientation time with the CEO director Tashina Atine to go over any questions I had about the process and the pageant itself. I prepared a traditional talent, practiced potential judge's questions and made a decision what my platform would be. I had fun with my mom finding an evening gown, prepared my outfits, jewelry, down to make up. My advice would be to make a list of everything you're going to need, run through each part of the pageant with that outfit, bring a set of comfy clothes during rehearsal, organization is key. Practice yes, but remember to not be something you're not just be yourself and shine when its your moment. Have fun!
This titleholder has the opportunity to highlight her culture and tribe on a national basis. The program is truly an opportunity to balance two worlds promoting all aspects of Native America. There are requirements that must be followed and a highlight is this pageant offers the titleholder to promote a platform important to her for a year. Any young candidate from all 50 states could vie from any tribe and is growing in both community and sisterhood.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THIS TITLE TO ANY PROSPECTIVE CONTESTANTS?
I say YES! Do it! You have nothing to lose. I truly think If I did not decide to run, I would have regretted it. Life is too short for any regrets. I gained a strong bond with my pageant sisters. We all would be going the same process together and it was an instant connection. There were questions in my head like "What if this happens or this," but when its your moment you find the grace on stage and just give it your best.
I would like to say that being your Miss Native America USA 2016-17 has been an incredible privilege. My being a title holder has so much meaning for I feel you are a light of hope and future leader for fellow Native People. We come from such a rich history and culture, its only right to share it, embrace it, and find the strength to support one another. Our ancestors had to hold on to life and survive for us to be here today. That's powerful. We have to honor them by living well in balance and healthy lifestyles.
ARE YOU THE NEXT MISS NATIVE AMERICAN USA??
The 2017 pageant will be held August 26th at Mesa Community College Performing Arts Center in Mesa, AZ.
Check the MNAUSA website for the application!
THANK YOU FROM APURRLTHECAT
A gracious farewell to our outgoing Miss Native American USA who is returning to college this Fall and will graduate in Spring'18 with both an associates degrees in science and psychology, along with my Spanish language certificate. Continue to break barriers with your ever growing education and career dancing your socks off! Thank you for all that you have done this year!