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Miss Indian Arizona is crowned

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Andrea Lynn Siow is back in Old Oraibi, Ariz., her Hopi village, after being named Miss Indian Arizona 2003 - 2004. The Miss Indian Arizona Scholarship Program was held Oct. 10, in Scottsdale.

Siow, 26, is the fourth member of the Hopi tribe to win the title in the 43-year history of the program. She is the daughter of Lawrence Siow of the Coyote Clan, and Mary Siow of the Corn and Water Clan. Siow was born and raised on Third Mesa. Her village has the distinction of being the oldest continuously inhabited village in the United States. For the past two years, she has helped with the Toys for Tots program, and with setting up Christmas parties in her village.

Siow attended the Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind in Tucson. She has a visual impairment called Stargardt's disease, a rare genetic disorder similar to macular degeneration.

The Miss Indian Arizona Pageant, sponsored by the Intertribal Council of Arizona, Inc. and the Miss Indian Arizona Association, is one of the longest running, and traditionally-diverse events representing the 21 tribes of Arizona. A unique feature of the pageant is how contestants blend the best aspects of their traditional Indian cultures with their modern lifestyles.

Presiding over the pageant were the masters of ceremonies Ivan Makil and Jacob Moore. Makil gave a special tribute to Lori Piestewa, a U.S. Army soldier from Tuba City, Ariz. who was killed in Iraq. Also assisting was Dorian Dalton, Miss Indian Arizona 2002 - 2003. Dalton choreographed the opening dance by the contestants, introduced each contestant, and presented the awards.

The contestants participated in a variety of events during the competition, including the talent showcase, evening dress presentation, traditional dress, and impromptu question. These events were punctuated by entertainment from the musical group Est?n-bah, a 2003 Native American Musical Awards nominee for Best World Music Recording.

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For the final traditional dress and impromptu question segments of the competition, Siow dressed in garments traditionally worn by Hopi girls for special occasions such as initiations, and dances. She wore a manta, or black wrap-around dress, representing the universe, life, and the bloodline that runs through us all. She wore traditional white makeup made with corn meal called "homa." This is traditionally worn by Hopi women during prayer and ceremonies for beautification and purity. Siow wore her hair up in a squash blossom style, a sign that she is not married and has no children.

Siow reached into the basket to pick a tiny slip of paper containing the question she had, and handed it to Makil, who read it aloud. The question for Siow: "Diabetes is a serious illness affecting Arizona Indians. Do you feel enough is being done to address this?"

This was a fitting question, considering Siow's life over the past three years. Her father suffered from diabetes for many years, but Siow had never understood the process of managing the disease. Then, in 2000, her father underwent surgery for a diabetes-related injury. Although the surgery went well, complications caused her father to lapse into a coma and he died several days later. This had a profound effect upon Siow, who lamented, "Why didn't I ever ask about this?"

A turning point in her life, Siow said this taught her an appreciation for life, and to "live every day to the fullest." She now works full-time in a special diabetes program, sponsored by Indian Health Service. The focus of the program is education and prevention. As part of the program, Siow conducts diabetes screening, and helps Indians learn how to prevent and control the disease. Because an active lifestyle is so important in diabetes prevention, Siow is also involved with the 100 Mile Club, a nationwide physical fitness program with about 1,900 participants.

Siow also working to bring the Youth in Motion program to Hopi schools. Like the 100 Mile Club, Youth in Motion aims to build healthy exercise habits.

Siow is plans to speak with different tribes in order to share experiences and connect similar support groups across the reservations during her reign as Miss Indian Arizona. She also wants to return to her high school and speak. Above all else, Siow plans to continue her work with the diabetes program and promote diabetes prevention.

"My heart is in serving the community" by improving health and wellness of others, she said. Her father would be proud of her.