Published On: Thu, Oct 15th, 2015

COMMENTARY: Support Miss Cherokee…and, a new pageant format





On the night of Saturday, Oct. 3, I took one of my all-time favorite photographs.  Amorie Gunter was crowned Miss Cherokee, and the raw, tearful emotion on her face when her name was called as the winner was priceless.  I’m so happy to have been able to be there and capture that image.

One week later, I took another photo that was also full of emotion as Taran Swimmer was crowned Miss Cherokee.

A week separated the two photos, and it was a week full of emotions that ran the gamut of good, bad and ugly as the original tabulations were found to be incorrect resulting in the wrong name being called on Oct. 3.

I am not going to comment on that end of it as I feel it’s been talked to death the past week.  I would like to encourage everyone to rally behind the title of Miss Cherokee and what it represents.  Swimmer will make an excellent Miss Cherokee…just as any of the four young women who competed this year would have.  They are all incredible role models for Cherokee youth.

Swimmer will wear her crown this year and represent the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians at events all over the country including Washington, DC.  As Miss Cherokee, she will carry on her shoulders a burden…one that she willingly signed up for and one that she will bear with the same dignity that others before her have.

Miss Cherokee is always in the public eye.  That is a strain, but it is a necessary strain for they represent an entire nation.  Winning the Miss Cherokee pageant is not akin to winning the Miss Asheville pageant.  Miss Cherokee represents a sovereign nation, not just the town of Cherokee.

That said, I would like to offer a few suggestions and comments to the Miss Cherokee Royalty Board.  First off, let me say that I feel for you ladies.  I know that you try each year to produce a nice pageant full of dignity and pride.  I also know some of the heartache that you each have felt during this recent ordeal.  It was an impossible situation all the way around.  My heart goes out to everyone involved – contestants, Board members, family, everyone.

A few years ago, I attended the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow in Albuquerque, NM and attended the Miss Indian World pageant which was divided up into several parts over the course of several days, something that I think would work well here in Cherokee.  At the Miss Indian World pageant, contestants present their talent during a separate event held on Thursday prior to the start of the pow wow.  The next day, they do interviews and the public speaking portion of the contest.  Then, they have their dance competition and crowning on Saturday night.

For the Miss Cherokee pageant, maybe the main parts of the contest such as the traditional talent, traditional dress, platform and casual dress could be held during the annual event held the Saturday before the start of the Fair.  Then, the contestants could do their interview on Monday and then come back on the first night of the Fair for the crowning.  Having several days in between would eliminate any scoring issues as the judge’s scoresheets could be quadruple-checked if necessary.  Also, that would satisfy both those who like the pageant portion at the Chief Joyce Dugan Cultural Arts Center and those who like it being held at the Cherokee Indian Fair.

These are just some thoughts to mull over in the off-season.