Frances McKay, 23, an enrolled member of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, is preparing for a major life experience as she gets ready to compete in the Miss Indian World Pageant, which will be held during the 2010 Gathering of Nations Pow Wow April 22–24 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
McKay is the daughter of Euretta (Harvey) and Robert McKay; her maternal grandparent is Francis Harvey; and her great-grandmother is Nora (Ray) Harvey. Her paternal grandparent is Mary Louise.
McKay is in her senior year at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, where she is majoring in communications with a minor in nonprofit leadership.
She decided to enter the Miss Indian World Pageant for a number of reasons, one of them being her remarkable weight loss.
“I was very heavyset, and I lost 164 pounds over the last couple of years,” said McKay. “I never really took the opportunity [to enter the pageants] before, because I had really low confidence, but now I feel healthier and better about myself. I know I can do this and be like the other girls.”
More important, McKay is competing in the pageant because she wants to be a positive role model for young girls.
“I have nieces and little cousins. These little girls really do look up to older people, whether they are good role models or not,” said McKay. “They really need a good role model, and I think I would be a good one because I live a good life. I am drug and alcohol free, I am getting my education and working for my people, and I want to do something for other Native people in Indian Country.”
McKay has never been in a pageant setting before, but that doesn’t make her nervous at all. She is actually very excited and looking forward to the task. She is currently preparing for competition in four categories, in which she will compete against possibly 25 other contestants who are either holding titles now or who have held titles in the past. The categories are public interview, private interview with the judges, traditional talent, and a pow wow-style dance.
Her idea for a traditional talent caught her attention right away: a presentation on quilt making, a talent that has been passed down from her grandmother to her aunts and mother. “My grandma Nora used to make patch quilts, and so do
my aunties from Salt River. My mom makes quilts, so it runs in the family,” said McKay.
She will be presenting a Northern-style dance for the dance competition, which is a big deal for her because she only started dancing about two years ago.
McKay is looking forward to the interview portions of the pageant. She said, “I am not that great as a public speaker, but because I am a communications major we are always being tested by being put on the spot and presenting speeches. I have had a lot of fun winging it, and I usually come out with a good grade. I am really looking forward to the questions; they are random questions that you can’t really study for, you just have to have good general knowledge and answer them.” McKay said she is also looking forward to meeting new people who share her lifestyle ideals.
If she is crowned Miss Indian World, McKay would like to advocate for empowerment of Native women. “It seems like a lot of our Native women are living in a man’s world. I am not trying to sound feminist, but it almost seems like women are looked down upon in our culture. Women are powerful human beings, and they should be recognized for that,” she explained.
She would also like to advocate for preservation of Native languages. “I love languages, and I do believe cultures will die out without them,” said McKay. “A lot of tribes are doing really good jobs revitalizing their languages.”
McKay has had a lot of support from her family. Many jumped at the task of helping her to sell tickets, with proceeds helping to cover the expenses of the Miss Indian World Program. Each contestant must sell a limit of 500 tickets to participate in the pageant, and after the pageant each participant receives 10 percent of the amount of their ticket sales.
“We have had big support from my family from Spirit Lake and Grand Forks, North Dakota,” said McKay. “They have helped me a lot in selling raffle tickets and just through their encouragement and support. I am thankful and grateful that they are all cheering me on. Also, my Salt River family is happy for me, and they are having a dress with basket designs made for me and bringing it to New Mexico for me.”
During the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow, the Miss Indian World Pageant is a five-day event for the contestants. On Thursday, April 22 at 7 p.m., the Miss Indian World talent presentations will be held in the Kiva Auditorium at the Albuquerque Convention Center. On Saturday, April 24 at 7:30 p.m., Miss Indian World will be crowned on the pow wow grounds.
For more information on the Miss Indian World Pageant or the Gathering of Nations Pow Wow, log on to www.gatheringofnations.com.