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Miss Indian World on Meeting Obama, Indian Pride and Saying Goodbye

Taylor Thomas, the reigning Miss Indian World, will pass her title next week at the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow. She recently wrote to ICTMN about her year-long reign, and asked us to publish her story. The letter was edited for clarity.

Ne nanahniha Onsoquah, ne Miss Indian World 2014-2015, ne Sosoni Bannite, Kickapoo, and Prairie Band Potawatomi, ne Fort Hall, Idaho naite, tsaan dia neesungahk.

Greetings in my Shoshone language! My name is Taylor Christianna Thomas, I am the reigning Miss Indian World 2014-2015, and my Indian name is “How The Elk Walks.” I am Shoshone-Bannock, Kickapoo, and Prairie Band Potawatomi. I am from the Fort Hall Indian Reservation in Southeast Idaho, and I am feeling wonderful!

My year has come to end, and I invite you all to the Gathering of Nations Powwow, April 24-25 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. On Saturday April 25, I will be crowning the new international titleholder Miss Indian World 2015-2016. The title Miss Indian World has been a blessing, and more than I have ever dreamed of! The opportunity to represent, travel, and learn has been an amazing life-changing experience.

I had two goals at the beginning of my reign, and they were to travel to Canada, and meet President Barack Obama. As Miss Indian World my platform was “Indian Pride.” More specifically, my message was: “We all have a purpose, everyone is gifted with strength and medicine to share, and to contribute to the world. To the youth, we are not leaders of tomorrow, but we are leaders of today. To all young women, we are capable of changing, and influencing our communities as leaders. Follow your dreams, and become the inspiration you seek in the world.” I shared these messages as often as possible, as they are close to my heart.

Some of the greatest highlights of my Miss Indian World journey have been meeting President Barack Obama in January, at his speech in Boise, Idaho. After being picked out of the crowd, I had the opportunity to meet him, get a picture, and have a brief conversation. I mentioned to him that he was my late grandmother Iva Lee’s favorite president, and that my family had voted for him both times. President Obama asked about the title Miss Indian World, and he said it was an honor to meet me, to say thank you to my grandma for her support, and that he expected many great things from me in the future.

Miss Indian World Taylor Thomas

My year was filled with many amazing experiences, and actually historical ones as well. Idaho Rep. Michael K. Simpson recognized me on Congressional Record of the 113th Congress, Second Session on April 30, 2014. Congressmen Simpson congratulated me on being crowned Miss Indian World, and for being an ambassador for Idaho, and the Shoshone-Bannock tribes. I am the first Miss Indian World to be recognized on Congressional Record, the second Shoshone-Bannock tribal member, as well as the first woman, and the only living Shoshone-Bannock tribal member to be recognized on Congressional Record.

I spoke at the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) Youth Honoring luncheon, the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) conference, and the Northwest Intertribal Youth Conference (NIYC), where I had a session dedicated to Women’s Leadership, and Youth Leadership. I also rode in a canoe for the first time attending the Salmon Ceremony with the Tulalip people, and I rode horses in the Comanche Fair, the Shoshone-Bannock Festival, and the Pendleton Round Up parades. I enjoyed speaking at, and attending conferences, pow wows, and gatherings in Idaho, Utah, California, Washington, Florida, Georgia, Montana, Oregon, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Kansas, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.

Being crowned Miss Indian World has been a dream come true, and has provided me with endless opportunities for the future. I only smile when I look back on my travels, and thinking about the new wonderful friends I have made, and the amazing memories I have with my family, and friends.

One of the most valuable lessons I have learned throughout my reign is to always acknowledge everyone that I meet, and to attend as many functions as possible, no matter the size, and to always do it with a smile. Going to pow wows, and other events gave me the chance to interact with large groups of people, and lots of time for meeting people one-on- one. We all breathe the same air, and drink the same water. Being humble is a powerful lesson I will continue to learn and practice.

Indian country is a beautiful place, and through all of our struggles we may face, we still have so many bright lights. Whether you come from a small reservation, or an Indian community in the cities, we all matter, and we all must continue helping one another.

I pray I served you all well.
U’se (thank you).