By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Miss Cherokee pageant helped to open the 107th Cherokee Indian Fair on Tuesday, Oct. 8 with Jordan Maney being crowned the 2019-20 Miss Cherokee. Several days after the applause and fanfare had waned, word began to spread that something was awry with the pageant.
Now, that pageant has been declared null and void and a new pageant is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 26 at 6 p.m. at the Chief Joyce Dugan Cultural Arts Center.
“We were notified on Thursday (Oct. 10) that there had been an issue with the Miss Cherokee pageant and that our Board was going to be named as the Board to oversee all of the pageants,” said Yona Wade, EBCI (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’) Pageant Board chairman. “We were able to meet with the girls and apprise them of the situation and what had happened regarding the pageant, and there were questions as to whether the names were read correctly on the paper.”
The EBCI Pageant Board has, until now, just been over the junior pageants for the Tribe including the Little Miss Cherokee, Junior Miss Cherokee, and Teen Miss Cherokee pageants. Following issues with the Miss Cherokee pageant, an executive order was issued on Friday, Oct. 18 by Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed dissolving the EBCI Royalty Board, which was over the Miss Cherokee pageant, and making the EBCI Pageant Board over all four pageants of the Tribe.
Wade noted that after learning of this situation, their Board was asked to look at the scoring and individual score sheets for the Miss Cherokee pageant to see if they were correct and done according to policy. “The Board reviewed the documentation that was provided and looked at the Miss Cherokee policies that were in place, and it was clear that the previous Board failed to follow their policies when implementing the pageant. It was determined that the fairest thing that we could do in the situation was to have a new pageant.”
Wade and Keyonna Owle, EBCI Pageant Board secretary, both recused themselves from the review due to familial ties to a contestant.
Mollie Grant, EBCI Pageant Board vice chair, led the review and issued a report on Monday, Oct. 21 which states, “…the Pageant Board concludes that the Royalty Board’s departures from the written policy render the results of the competition unreliable, or at least unconfirmable, by objective measurement. It is evident from our review that these departures were inadvertent mistakes, not intentional wrongdoing.”
It continued, “The Pageant Board recommends that the results of the Miss Cherokee competition held on Oct. 8, 2019 should be nullified and a new competition should be held. The Pageant Board has discussed this idea with all three contestants who completed in the original competition. All three contestants have agreed to participate in a new competition.”
In their report, the Pageant Board lists several ‘departures from written policy’ including problems with judges not signing their score sheets and marks being made on score sheets that could not be verified were made by a judge. The review states, “In the course of this competition, the judges were not properly instructed by the Royalty Board on how to make and confirm their own corrections on the score sheets. As a result, the judges did not sign the score sheets as required.”
Grant noted that each of the three judges just happened to use different colored ink. “That’s how we were able to determine the score sheets apart. They were not even in order.”
The three judges that night were Miss Indian World Cheyenne Kippenberger, Bambi Jo Pelham, and Mrs. Frankie Roper. Grant noted that Pelham and Roper were interviewed for the review but Kippenberger was not available for an interview due to policies for Miss Indian World.
Pelham and Roper told Grant what color ink they wrote with so the reviewers were able to tell which score sheet belonged to which judge. But, Grant noted, “There were mark-throughs on all three sheets, no initials, no signatures…so, we were unable to come to a conclusion.”
Grant related that Pelham said she did make marks but didn’t remember what.
Another issue came at crowning time. The review states, “In addition to the problems listed above, when the Master of Ceremonies read the names of the winner, first runner-up, and second runner-up, he read them in the wrong order. This error can be attributed to the way the names were listed on the sheet of paper that was handed to the Emcee when he was on stage and the failure to properly instruct the Emcee before the event.”
Grant said it was not at all the fault of Eddie Swimmer, emcee that evening. She said that the sheet given to Swimmer had the contestants listed by their contestant number not their actual ranking in the pageant.
Wade commented, “It has nothing really to do with miscalculation of numbers. It has everything to do with whether the Board followed its policy. And, unfortunately, they did not follow their policy and has put us in the position that we’re in.”
He thinks that, going forward, having all four pageants under the EBCI Pageant Board will be a positive step. “I think it is unfortunate the situation that we find ourselves in. However, I think it gives us a great opportunity to better the Miss Cherokee pageant program and to grow it and hopefully inspire young Cherokee women to one day want to serve as Miss Cherokee. I think it will help with consistency and continue to elevate quality for all the pageants.”
The One Feather attempted to contact the EBCI Royalty Board, through their official email account, for a comment on this situation but has not received a response by press time.