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Wanted! Miss Indian World Contestants for Gathering of Nations

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The Gathering of Nations Pow Wow, which begins on April 28th in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is calling on all eligible young Native women, including royalty, tribal princesses, to apply for the 28th annual Miss Indian World Competition, which began in 1983. The application is the first step for any young lady who dreams of accepting the crown on April 30th in front of more than 100,000 visitors from around the country, including more than 500 tribes.

Yet before we delve into this year's Miss Indian World competition at the Gathering, we should take a moment to celebrate the Gathering's big Grammy win. This past February 13, the 2011 Grammy for Best Native American Music Album went to 2010 Gathering of Nations Powwow: A Spirit’s Dance, which was recorded live at last year's event.

The Gathering committee can't rest on these laurels, however, as the time is nigh for assembling the final pieces for this year's pow wow. Headed back to the “Pit,” the University of New Mexico’s basketball arena, after last year’s outdoor event at the football stadium, organizers are officially calling any eligible Miss Indian World Contestants. Applications are now available for download on the Gathering of Nations site. The Gathering states that "Miss Indian World represents all Native People and serves as a Goodwill Ambassador to all cultures throughout the world." The qualifications for eligibility are as follows: You must be a Native or Indigenous woman between 18 and 25-years of age, with verifiable tribal affiliation, you must be single (having never been married and without children), and knowledgeable of tribal traditions. The application spells out the competition categories (traditional talent presentation of a contestant's tribe, public speaking and private interviews with judges, a dance competition, etc.), and includes details on code of conduct and requires a personal essay and two letters of recommendation.

Young woman from all over the country have competed for the crown in this five-day competition, and whoever wins this year will have big shoes to fill. Last year's winner was Dakota Brant, Mohawk Nation Turtle Clan, was selected from among 26 native women and was the first Mohawk crowned Miss Indian World. Dakota Brant also holds the distinction of being both a twin (she has an identical sister Jesse) and a volunteer firefighter with Jesse in their community of Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. Since being crowned, Brant has traveled around North America, attending events such as the "Brant Day" festivities at the Ontario Provincial Parliament in Toronto, where she welcomed guests to the Ontario Legislature, a day named not after her, but her ancestor, Joseph Brant, who had a crucial role in the American Revolution, and attending the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) Youth Leadership Challenge in Lawrence, Kansas, where kids throughout Indian country spend a week together engaging in "rigorous schedule of instruction, events, challenges, recreation and social activities that are designed to create awareness and improve the knowledge base of young tribal members in the unique Nation to Nation relationship that Indian Tribes have with the United States Government," according to the Haskell Indian Nations University website.

This year's Gathering will likely be bigger then ever, with the attention of the Grammy win and the Gathering returning to the Pit, the historic location for the Gathering. They've got their musical acts set for Stage 49 inside the Pit, where contemporary native music and entertainers play everything from rock and blues to reggae, hip hop and country.

This crowning of a new Miss Indian World caps this epic event, a fitting finale to a growing Gathering.