Dancing like a Dogfish or a Raven?

Photo: Keya Clairmont
Photo: Keya Clairmont

Ariane Xay Kuyaas, Yaghujaanaas Raven clan from Daadans, had so much fun at the Gathering of Nations Miss Indian World Competition last year that she is competing again this year. The 2016 Miss Indian World Competition is a jam packed week of competition, held between April 26-30 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA. The competition is part of the Gathering of Nations ‘biggest pow wow’ in the world.

Billed as much more than a competition; throughout the 5-day gathering, MIW contestants share a journey of ‘sisterhood’ as they represent their nations, clans, tribes and communities. Past contestants say they have formed lifelong friendships while participating in the full stage production of the traditional and talent presentations, which culminates in the crowning of Miss Indian World.

Each MIW contestant competes in public speaking, a personal interview, a traditional talent demonstration, a presentation, an essay, and a dance. Judging is based on the MIW contestants own cultural knowledge.

“Last year, I remember all the girls asking each other what style they were going to dance for the dancing contest? When I was asked, I remember thinking, gee, I don’t know. Regular or like a dogfish or a raven maybe?”

Xay Kuyaas says that grand entry dancing was breathtaking. “It was unlike anything around here, that’s for sure. I had no idea what traditional, stationary, northern, southern, or any of the other styles of [pow wow] dancing were. So, that was neat to see and not something I could learn in a hurry. But it was fun to dance to.”

The grand entry consists of the lead dancers, veterans, the Miss Indian World title holder, community leaders, community or pow wow title holders, current contestants, behind them representatives from across the America’s and falling in behind them in various pow wow categories. There are often 10, 000 people at this event.

“To be one of the few Haida’s in the stadium was intimidating,” says Xay Kuyaas. “But it did not feel lonely. Everyone was so excited and supportive.”

 Xay Kuyaas did not win last year but gained a lot of experience which will assist her in this year’s competition. “I am very grateful for the opportunity to run again, and to be able to share a little more of our culture,” she says.

The winner will travel for a year throughout the world as a cultural ambassador for Indigenous people promoting cultural awareness, diversity and representing the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow. Miss Indian World is intended to be a role model to young and old and helps to educate and demonstrate the beauty and diversity of Indigenous culture.

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