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The Independent Student Voice of NMSU Since 1907

NMSU Round Up

The Independent Student Voice of NMSU Since 1907

NMSU Round Up

Miss Native American NMSU Pageant highlights contestants, celebrates cultures

David Castañeda
Former NMSU Miss Native American (left) coronates and congratulates 2024’s Miss Native American winner Shay Smith. April 11, 2024.

Excitement filled the Corbett Center auditorium on Thursday, April 11, as contestants and audience members waited anxiously for the results of the Miss Native American NMSU Pageant. Finally, after deliberation from the judges, Shaylyn Smith stood and received the crown from last year’s winner.  

The pageant took place as part of an annual event meant to celebrate Native American women and their cultures, where participants are given the space to share parts of their culture with a wider audience.  

The pageant began with a prayer led by Linus Dewahe, the father of last year’s winner. Following the prayer came opening remarks from Shaylyn Smith and her fellow contestant, Sara Kinney. Both spoke about their respective backgrounds, different skills and what they wished to see if they won the pageant.  

Contestant Sara Kinney presents an “About Me” powerpoint to judges and the audience. April 11, 2024. (David Castañeda)

Kinney talked about her plans for outreach and her time as a sophomore in the nursing program. She closed her opening remark by explaining how these two ideas shaped her views on outreach and expanding networking within the Native American community on campus.  

Smith, on the other hand, took time to talk about how the event meant a lot to her because it was an opportunity to do something that she had never done before, and how she wanted to use this experience to better herself.  

“When I was talking, I was very nervous, I’m not one to speak about myself or show off or brag about who I am, but it really got me out of my comfort zone,” Smith said.  

Following their opening remarks, both candidates were asked to perform a display of their culture. Kinney did a demonstration of the White Mountain Apache’s coming of age ceremony, which included items and photographs from her own experience completing the ceremony.  

Smith followed Kinney with a traditional butterfly dance from her home Laguna Pueblo, displaying cultural importance of the event. Kinney asked that no photographs or video be taken of the dance, due to its importance within Laguna’s closed practice.  

Following the cultural displays came a chance for each of the young women to show off their contemporary talents. Kinney read a poem she wrote about her time as a nursing student and facing imposter syndrome as she begins her career.  

“I feel like a lot of people do share the same mindset; I feel like it’s something we all go through,” Kinney said. “It might not be nursing; it could be other majors like engineering or art majors. I feel like being able to share that I was able to give comfort to people.” 

During her allotted time, Smith displayed the skill of sewing traditional Laguna clothing. Her talent also doubles as a source of income since she can make traditional clothing on commission for those in her Pueblo.  

Former NMSU Miss Native American Latisha Dewahe thanks the audience for their attendance. April 11, 2024. (David Castañeda)

After the two contestants showed their talents, there were brief remarks from the year’s previous winner, Letisha Dewahe. She talked about her last year as Miss Native American NMSU, and some of the experiences that she was able to have because of her victory.  

“I wanted to inspire and encourage others to pursue a higher education, to show them and lead by example, and show them how they can represent not only their communities but also themselves,” Dewahe said of her main goal during her tenure as Miss Native American NMSU.  

As she spoke, the judges deliberated on the winner of the pageant while the contestants waited eagerly for the results. Finally, after several minutes, the winner was announced and Dewahe passed on her crown and sash to Shay Smith, who stood and smiled at the crowd joyfully.  

Following the crowning of the winner, the pageant closed with a prayer lead by Linus, and the audience rushed onto the stage of the Corbett auditorium to celebrate with the winners. Shay Smith shared her gratitude for being crowned Miss Native American NMSU.  

“It’s an honor honestly, I’m so proud that I have the support that I needed to get me through all this, and for the Creator that’s blessed me on who I am today, and being able to get up and show my community who I am,” Smith said.  

Kinney shared her excitement for Smith and stated her gratitude for being given a chance to compete in the pageant.  

“Even though I ended up being runner up, I’m really proud that I pushed myself to do this challenge and hopefully I’ll be able to provide support for Shaylyn,” Kinney said.  

Smith and Kinney then rushed to celebrate with their families, closing the event. Carefully, members of the audience and coordinators helped clean up the bright colored decorations.  

Amid the smiles of winners and the congratulations of families, the event highlighted some of the various Native American cultures on campus, as well as the opportunity for young women’s professional and personal development.

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About the Contributors
Madeline Nielsen
Madeline Nielsen, Staff Writer
Madeline Nielsen is a freshman at NMSU majoring in Journalism and Media Studies. This is her first semester at The Round Up as a writer. She is excited for the learning experiences in Student Media and in college at large. She is originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico, and graduated from St. Michael’s High School in 2023. In High School, she participated in creative writing and theater, and is excited to continue working with all facets of student media in college. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing, and painting.
David Castañeda
David Castañeda, Multimedia Director
David Castañeda is starting his second year here at The Round Up, this being his first year as Multimedia Director. This is his second year at New Mexico State University and is majoring in Journalism & Media Studies. He was born and raised in El Paso, Texas as an only child but is extremely happy to be able to call Las Cruces his new home. David has had an affinity for photography since he was in elementary school and has only fallen deeper in love with the art through this job. Though David enjoys nothing more than to be behind a camera he loves to try to explore new hobbies and career options. He’s currently focused on improving his photography at The Round Up and working with the Multimedia Specialists to make the Multimedia team the best it can be. When he isn’t taking photos or editing them on Photoshop, David loves to spend his time with his 3-year-long girlfriend in their apartment where they frequently cuddle up in bed to watch some trash TV and films. On his own, he loves to play the bass and listen to music. His favorite artists are The Strokes and Gorillaz.    

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