By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
One Feather Staff
The current royalty of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) have had a roller-coaster of a ride during their now two-year reign. Miss Cherokee 2019-21 Amy West, Teen Miss Cherokee 2019-21 Haley Smith, Junior Miss Cherokee 2019-21 Nevayah Panther, and Little Miss Cherokee 2019-21 Georjia Girty have represented the Tribe with style, grace, and most of all, patience, during one of the most turbulent times in recent history.
The four ladies were crowned in October 2019 at the annual Cherokee Indian Fair. At the time, they each were looking forward to a year filled with local appearances, community events and service, and out-of-state trips to various places where they would represent the Tribe.
Well, five months into their reign the world was hit with the COVID-19 pandemic and everything changed in an instant. Along with the health concerns came event cancellations in mass. Everything was different for them, but they never complained. They never did anything but continue to represent in the way they know – with a smile.
The 2020 Cherokee Indian Fair was cancelled and it was decided in that summer to extend the ladies’ reigns into another year. At the time, West told the One Feather, “I am very excited to see what the next year holds and to be able to experience this with three young women who are more like my sisters. I will continue to hold this title with integrity and represent this Tribe to the best of my abilities.”
Smith noted, “This is such a rough time we are in, but coming together is one way we can overcome it.”
Panther told the paper, “Although we are unsure of how things will be in the coming months, I am working to find ways to complete a few community service projects while adhering to the ‘new normal’ and following all guidelines put forth.”
And, Girty told us, “I look forward to a chance to continue our reign together, share fun times, and make new memories when it is safe to do so.”
Each had the chance to complain about the situation or gripe about the lack of trips during their reign, but they didn’t. They never do. To them, holding a royalty position within the Tribe is about service.
Even though events for the past two years have been sparse, they have continued to serve and be present at those that they could make including the recent Cherokee Elder’s Walk, Eastern Band Cherokee Pow Wow, Annual Kituwah Celebration, and others.
In each event, they represent the Tribe in a way that truly puts the best foot forward for all 16,000 tribal members.
I take a lot of photographs each year at various events, and I much prefer taking candid shots showing true emotions rather than posed photos. Either way, in every shot I take of them they’re either smiling or laughing – always happy. And, they don’t have to be told to do so – this is just who they are as people and it is a great way to represent a proud people.
So, here we are again with the Cherokee Indian Fair being cancelled, but four pageants will be held with limited attendance during the first week of October. And, these four ladies will end their reigns.
Although they didn’t get what some would consider the full experience of serving in these positions due to COVID-19 restrictions, they have served the Tribe in a such a way that would fill five reigns.
Good luck to the contestants vying for these positions. The One Feather will be there to cover the new crownings and the beginnings of four new reigns for ladies who I am sure will follow in the footsteps of Amy, Haley, Nevayah, and Georjia and serve the Tribe in a stylish and graceful manner.