The evening of June 12 was a milestone for 13-year-old Sommer Lopez, daughter of Rito and Christy Lopez, because it marked the night when she was awarded the crown as Junior Miss Salt River 2015. Her exhibit of her O’odham tradition was evident in each of the categories she was judged upon, and she presented herself in the proper manner expected of a young O’odham girl. The new Junior Miss Salt River First Attendant, 13-year-old Sialik King, daughter of Kyland and Cynthia King, was just as poised. Lopez and King now join the 2015-16 royalty court to represent and be ambassadors for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
The 23rd annual Junior Miss Salt River Pageant was held in the showroom at the Talking Stick Resort. Six exceptional young women contended for the title. The co-emcees of the event were the current Miss Indian Arizona First Attendant Martha Martinez from the SRPMIC and 2000-01 Miss Indian Arizona Victoria (Quintero) Ayala of the Gila River Indian Community.
Each participant wove different aspects of the night’s theme, “Flowers of the Desert,” into her presentations. Each young lady demonstrated essay-writing and speaking skills and provided a display of selected attire depicting a contemporary outfit as well as traditional Piipaash or O’odham attire.
Highlights of Lopez’ performances included a demonstration of the O’odham toka game, including her description of the intricacies of the game and a short visual demonstration of actual play and the winning strategies involved in the game. In the traditional dress segment, she wore a modest cotton-blend muslin top and bottom wraparound skirt made by one of her ceremonial godmothers, Pat Villalpando. The dress was accented with white satin crepe water designs, which is a significant design of the O’odham. Her accessories included a white simple beaded necklace consisting of unique strands made by each of her six godmothers, earrings made with abalone shell found along the Pacific Coast, and so much more.
King’s performances included an oral description and story associated with the O’odham “Cripple Song,” and she performed the traditional dance associated with it for the audience. Her traditional dress segment featured a contemporary designed O’odham dress, an updated version of her 2001 “baby O’odham dress,” made by Valerie Schurz. It was made of muslin cloth with a black water design along the edging and a trio of basket designs as its focal point. She wore a necklace of multi-strand black seed beads, another necklace of small seashells, and she also wore abalone-shell earrings, as well as other items.
Throughout the two-hour event, all the participants executed a wide variety of contemporary and traditional talent presentations. Dione Dallas showcased her musical talents when she played an instrumental arrangement on the electric keyboard; there was a strong orated speech by Teya Johnson and a traditional O’odham dance performed by Sistine Lewis; and Nani Reina gave a strong dance performance of a Piipaash chiyer (bird) dance.
The young ladies of the SRPMIC provided admirable interpretations and performances for the judges to consider, and they all entertained the audience with their talent and poise.