Raven Swamp is hoping to blend traditional knowledge with local flare to bring home a much-coveted title across Turtle Island. (Courtesy Raven Swamp)
Every spring, hundreds of Indigenous people across Turtle Island travel to Albuquerque, New Mexico for the biggest powwow in the world: Gathering of Nations.
This year, Kahnawa’kehró:non Raven Swamp will be vying for the title of 2017 Miss Indian World, a prestigious cultural pageant for young Indigenous women that has been a staple at the powwow since the 1980s.
“I feel really honoured that they chose me,” said Swamp. “I’m very rooted in the community and our culture, so I knew I could represent Kahnawake in that sense.”
Swamp will be among 27 Indigenous women representing their families, communities, and nations at the pageant, which takes place April 25-29.
Each contestant will compete in the areas of traditional talent, dance, public speaking, personal interview, and essay writing.
“A part of my platform is going to be focused on language revitalization and Indigenous food sovereignty,” said Swamp.
The 23-year-old currently teaches Kanien’kéha at Karihwanó:ron Mohawk Immersion. She is also heavily involved in a grassroots initiative that aims to establish an organic, self-sufficient farming project that strives toward our community’s economic independence through food sovereignty.
For the past two years, Swamp, along with about a dozen other community members, have been cultivating white corn and other vegetables on land west of Highway 30.
“We’re just getting ready for this coming season. We’re just waiting for it to become spring and begin,” said Swamp.
As a part of her entrance fee, Swamp has to sell a minimum of 500 raffle tickets.
“Usually, for any type of contest, you have an entrance fee. That’s what the raffle tickets are for,” said Swamp. “I’m lucky to have my mother (Trina Moses) at my side. She’s been helping me with the fundraising, but I ended up getting sponsored by Kaienta’a Cross with Dynamic Fitness.”
While most of the contestants for Miss Indian World hail from across the United States, Swamp is among three vying for the title from First Nations communities in Quebec, in addition to Kayleigh Spencer from Mistissini and Melissa Gilpin from Waskaganish.
The winner will be crowned on April 29 in front of an audience at the Gathering of Nations powwow arena.
As a prestigious cultural ambassador for Indigenous people throughout the world, the newly-crowned Miss Indian World will then spend her year traveling, when the opportunities arise, and promoting cultural awareness, diversity and Gathering of Nations.
Last year, Caitlin Tolley a 26-year-old Algonquin from Kitigan-Zibi, was given the title runner up to Miss Indian World.
“To me, Miss Indian World is someone who embodies cultural pride, education, beauty and is also grounded in her traditional teachings,” said Tolley.
Danielle Ta’sheena Finn of the Standing Rock Lakota won the crown last year.
“It is a great experience because you get to connect with other young women from different nations. It is a long way to travel; however having the opportunity to represent your community on an international level is a great achievement.”
That is exactly what Swamp is looking forward to at the end of the month.
“It promotes a lot of sisterhood and networking, so that’s what I’ll be looking forward to. Just the whole experience, I’m looking forward to networking with the many people I meet and just getting to know the other contestants and their backgrounds, and to put our language and our culture on the map,” said Swamp.