Mont. native wins Miss Indian World crown

By Glenda Rae Davis
Navajo Times

ALBUQUERQUE, May 3, 2012

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(Special to the Times - Donovan Quintero)

Newly crowned Miss Indian World Jessa Rae Growing Thunder, center, smiles and looks into the crowd as she makes her way around the arena floor Saturday night at the Gathering of Nations Powwow at the UNM Pit in Albuquerque.

J essa Rae Growing Thunder, Ft. Peck Assiniboine/Sioux, from Poplar, Mont., was crowned Miss Indian World on Saturday, April 28, at the 29th Annual Gathering of Nations Powwow.

Growing Thunder was one of 27 contestants who competed in the competition, which ran from Thursday to Saturday and tested the women's tribal knowledge, dancing ability, public speaking and assessed their personalities.

"The Miss Indian World title is one of the most prestigious honors among Native American and indigenous people," said Derek Mathews, founder of the Gathering of Nations. "The winner provides a cultural link between tribes and helps bring together Native and indigenous people throughout the world."

The concept for Miss Indian World originated in 1983 in Albuquerque. Native American young women from all over North America compete for the crown.

Growing Thunder, 22, accumulated 3,080 points - just 80 points more than first runner-up Joanne Morales-Gonzales, 25, Taino from Puerto Rico.

Second runner-up Nikkie Santos, 25, Coeur d'alene/Taino, acquired 2,960 points.

Growing Thunder's platform is cultural preservation.

"I grew up in house where they (grandmother and mother) woke up everyday at 5 in the morning and they beaded all day," said Growing Thunder at the press conference following the crowning. "They explained to me that we do these things everyday so our culture survives. It's not done to be selfish, it's for our people.

"I've lived by this, I do everything for my people," she said. "I want to do whatever I can to help preserve cultural traditions."

Growing Thunder is attending Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo.

Category winners included Shannon Hopper, Paiute/Shoshone, Miss Congeniality and best public speaker; Angelina Whitehorse, Navajo, best essay; Kelsey Wallace, Yupick Eskimo, best traditional dance; Monique Garcia, Acoma, best dancer; and Growing Thunder, best interview.

The top raffle sellers were Mallory Barloq, Bishop Paiute, and Kelsey Wallace. They both won an ocean cruise to the Bahamas.