Alaskan Native named Miss Indian World
By Erny Zah
ALBUQUERQUE, May 6, 2011
(Special to the Times - Donovan Quintero)
Tahbone, Inupiaq/Kiowa, was one of 26 contestants who made a run for the title this year. A Navajo, Crystalyne Curley, finished among the top three.
Tahbone attends the University of Alaska Fairbanks where she is majoring in Alaskan Native studies.
She entered the Miss Indian World pageant as the reigning Miss World Eskimo-Indian Olympics, a title she won last July in Fairbanks.
Tahbone said she never thought much about running for a crown when she was younger because she was only familiar with mainstream pageants like Miss Alaska, Miss USA and Miss Universe - all of which emphasize Hollywood beauty standards.
"I have never known a Miss Indian World," she said, adding that she then met Nicole Colbert, a fellow Alaskan Native who also rose to Miss Indian World (2008-09) after serving as Miss World Eskimo-Indian Olympics.
Tahbone said she was also influenced by her experience as Miss Arctic Native Brotherhood, an honor she recently won in Nome, Alaska, her hometown.
"She's a people person," said her father, Carlton Tahbone, 57, who was present when his daughter was announced as the winner Saturday night at UNM Arena. "I'm so proud of her."
Carlton, who is Kiowa and is originally from Carnegie, Okla., said he has lived in Alaska since before his daughter was born.
Fittingly, the Cozad Singers of Anadarko, Okla., who are mostly Kiowa, were selected to sing an honor song for the new Miss Indian World.
Tahbone said she hopes that winning Miss Indian World will benefit her home state.
"I'm trying to bring a lot of positive energy to Alaska," she said during the press conference after being crowned.
Her main focus during her reign will be education, she said. In a remote place like Nome - where people actually can see Russia (or Siberia, to be more exact) - education can be a way for the whole community to better itself.
Tahbone also hopes to create awareness about alcohol and drug abuse and other social problems that afflict Native communities.
"You can only do one thing at a time and I will work on that list of things to do," she said.
In addition to winning the crown, Tahbone also won in the Best Traditional Presentation category. She demonstrated traditional Alaskan Native games that were important for strength and survival.
Three Navajos competed in the pageant, with former Miss Navajo Nation candidate Crystalyne Curley taking second runner-up honors.
The others were former Miss Navajo Nation Yolanda Charley and Rochell Werito, of Oklahoma City. Charley and Werito were unavailable for comment.
Curley said she almost missed out because as the deadline approached to qualify, she was still way short of one major requirement - selling 500 raffle tickets to help raise money for the pageant.
She still needed to sell about 200 tickets - almost half the required minimum. But she did it, selling about 600 tickets altogether.
Curley, who Tsénjíkiní (Cliff Dweller Clan), born for Tó Aheedlíinii (Water Flows Together Clan), ascribed her slow start to indecision about whether she even wanted to run for Miss Indian World, saying she didn't make up her mind until about a month ago as the application deadline loomed.
Curley, who also competed for Miss Navajo Nation last year, performed a ribbon dance for her traditional talent.
Despite the large field of contestants, she said the Miss Indian World competition wasn't as stressful as the Miss Navajo pageant.
"It's very traditional," Curley said of the Miss Navajo pageant, noting the sheep butchering segment and the weeklong isolation from family as some of the more difficult aspects of the Miss Navajo contest.
"I feel great," said Ray Curley, her father, as he watched his family posing for pictures with Crystalyne's trophy. "I feel like it's a blessing."
First runner-up was Kiera-Dawn Kolson, Teetl'it Gwich'in/Tso'Tin, who is from Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories of Canada.
According to Navajo stories, her people are distantly related to the Diné, and she spoke of wanting to visit her relatives to the south.
"It was very humbling," she said. "I always wanted to come down and have a better understanding of who exactly our cousins are. I've heard legends and the stories. I've seen the sacred sites that correspond to our legends. So it was really awesome."
Kolson will be getting a lot further south than Dinétah - she also walked away with a trip to the Bahamas because she sold 3,000 raffle tickets, the most of any contestant.