(Note: This statement was received by the One Feather from the Miss Cherokee Royalty Board on Thursday, Oct. 23 at 2 p.m.)
In the days following the pageant, it has been disheartening to hear the amount of rumor and untrue facts going around the community. This was indeed an unfortunate situation and regrettable occurrence, that has unfortunately been made worse as things progressed.
The night of the pageant, one of members helping with the pageant coordination backstage, made a regrettable error – but, it was simply an unfortunate mistake and was not the result of favoritism or politics. The Miss Cherokee Royalty Board made cautious efforts this year to hand things over to the Pageant Coordinators in an effort to keep the Board free from claims of favoritism as has occurred in years past. As a result, the majority of the Royalty Board was seated in the audience and was seated apart from the judges and tabulators. The pageant coordinators were sensitive to time limitations back stage and wanted to keep things flowing, with as few pauses and breaks as necessary. After investigation, this seems to have led in part to the error made in announcing the winners correctly. The scores were tabulated by two separate individuals, secured from one of the local banks in town, and they listed the winners on the outside of the envelope in the order of their placement, circling the name of the winner, as they had been instructed. When they listed the contestant’s names, they also listed their contestant number out to the side. Once the scores were taken to the front, the emcee turned around to one of the assistants to clarify the winner as he was afraid of making a mistake. The assistant must have been unclear to the results herself, and in a rush to keep things moving, indicated to the emcee that the winner be announced according to their contestant number instead. The correct policy should have been for the assistant to get clarification from the tabulators if there was any doubt at all, to prevent a mistake of this magnitude. However, they guessed instead of getting clarification and had the tabulators not written the contestant numbers on the envelope, this would not have happened. However, it unfortunately took place and we sincerely apologize to the contestants for this error.
The tabulators contacted the Miss Cherokee Royalty Board co-chairs immediately following the pageant, distressed because she felt like there had been a misunderstanding and stated that the wrong person had been crowned. Both co-chairs, in the presence of at least two other additional witnesses, opened the scores and verified that the contestants had been crowned according to their contestant number and not the true order of their scores. The Miss Cherokee Royalty Board had full intentions of correcting this error and made steps to do so immediately, hoping to publicly crown the correct contestant prior to the end of the festival. However, the families went to the Chief’s office and there was an immediate injunction put on the Miss Cherokee Royalty Board from taking further action. The Board, wanting to comply and cooperate fully, immediately complied and was fully cooperative because there was nothing to hide.
An outside investigation was to take place verifying the results and the Miss Cherokee Royalty Board was fine with this taking place. However, no one touched base with or even had the professional courtesy to talk to the Miss Cherokee Board directly. This was regrettable, because these Board members volunteer their time and effort with no outside compensation and was treated as if they had done something personally wrong. However, outside family influences and the weights of leadership responsibilities may have made this hard at the time. The Board also felt that there was too many conflicts of interest to have the other Pageant Board reviewing the results and would have preferred to have this done by an objective third party. If the Miss Cherokee Royalty Board would have been consulted, with the modern technology available, we felt like a copy of the scores could have been scanned to each judge and the judge could in turn, sign a verification statement having a notary verify the true identity of each judge, stating that this was indeed their true and correct score. We also felt this would have taken away the strain and stress on the contestants to undergo a new pageant. At no time did any of the Miss Cherokee Board members ever alter or change a score. It was brought to our attention that the judges were not directed to properly initial any changes, and the Board does take responsibility for this as well.
However, under the stress and in fairness to the contestants, we do support the final outcome and wish each of the girls the best of luck in the future. We hope that they can take the adversity of challenges, as will happen in the natural course of life in general, and can rise to it with grace and integrity. We also hope they will all continue to be great leaders in our community, because this tribe can definitely benefit from their example and leadership. Again, we sincerely apologize for the mistakes made and any stress it may have unduly caused any of the contestants.
The Miss Cherokee Royalty Board would have liked to have been consulted further on the decision to consolidate the Boards. While we admire and compliment the Pageant Board for the work that they have done and all that they have accomplished, we feel that Miss Cherokee is one of the highest honors of the Tribe. At that age and time, Miss Cherokee has earned the right to be able to travel and do more at that level than the younger representatives. The Royalty Board was in the process of expanding the program to allow for a stipend to be awarded to the future Miss Cherokees. Also, with their platform, we were beginning to open up the travel opportunities so they could do more to promote their platforms. Progress was being made to further make contact with other tribal entities to expand and give them an opportunity to visit those locations, as well as further relations with other tribes. We can only hope that some of these goals will continue to take place under the future management. We do admit that our Board was relatively young as far as time served. During that time, they took great strides in further enhancing our procedure and policies, as well as making fresh new suggestions and making strides to improve the overall Miss Cherokee experience in the future. Each member was an upstanding community member with integrity and we thank them for their service. We do feel it is regrettable that they were not consulted or spoken directly to during this process, or treated with the professionalism that they deserved. I also regret that we were unable to see all the contributions they could have made to this process in the future. We personally do not agree with the decision made, and do feel that it is a mistake, but support our leaders and the other Pageant Board and wish them the best of luck in the future.