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Pageant part of heritage month


Photo
Courtney Smith/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Undeclared freshman Michelle Thomas, left, was crowned Miss Native American in the 2005-2006 Miss Native American University of Arizona Pageant held Saturday evening. Pre-physiological sciences freshman Sherri Bahe, right, was named the evening's first attendant.
By Nick Smith
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, November 14, 2005
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Clad in traditional dress, two UA students sang, danced and answered questions in hopes of winning the 22nd annual American Indian pageant at the UA on Saturday.

More than 100 people came to the Social Sciences building to see which American Indian student would be crowned Miss Native American University of Arizona.

At the end of the ceremony, Michelle Thomas, a pre-nursing freshman, was crowned the winner and the other contestant, Sherri Bahe, a pre-psychology freshman, was named first attendant.

Thomas, who is of Cherokee and Navajo descent, sang "America the Beautiful" in Navajo and demonstrated traditional Navajo hair tying during the talent portions of the pageant.

"It's a great feeling to teach (others) about your culture," Thomas said.

Bahe performed a country western dance and gave a presentation on the preparation of blue corn during the talent sections.

The women will work together to represent their heritages and promote the event for next year.

"We've really got to work hard for next year to get more girls interested in it," Thomas said.

Last year's competition drew five contestants, while this year only two students participated.

Aside from their joint responsibilities, the role of Miss Native American University of Arizona is to address concerns in the American Indian community, such as drug abuse and alcoholism, and to act as a role model for younger people, said Felisia Tagaban, master of ceremonies.

"The hope behind all of it is to inspire young people to come to the university," Tagaban said.

Thomas said she hopes by acting as a role model, more high school students will decide to attend the UA.

To do so, Thomas will follow in the footsteps of previous winners and travel around the country to educate others about the collegiate opportunities for students of American Indian descent.

Last year's winner, Amanda Cheromiah, a psychology sophomore, said she represented the Pueblo Laguna of New Mexico and traveled all over the nation to various gatherings and conferences as Miss Native American University of Arizona.

"From Los Angeles to New York to Chicago to Corpus Christi, it was a spider web across the United States," Cheromiah said.

The pageant was a kickoff event in honor of National American Indian Heritage Month.

Kassondra Yavia, nutritional science senior and last year's first attendant, said the movie "DreamKeeper" is also being played on Nov. 28 in Gallagher Theater in celebration of Native American Heritage Month.



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