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IAIA Represented at the Gathering of Nations

May 1, 2023

Miss Indian World contestants Faithlyn Seawright (Chickasaw, Choctaw) ’21 and Xeneca LeClair (Otoe-Missouria Tribe)

The Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) was well-represented at the 40th annual Gathering of Nations Powwow. Our staff, students, and alums were peppered throughout the powwow, one of the largest in North America. Our ad on the inside cover of the official program welcomed attendees to the event. IAIA had a booth at the Indian Traders Market, helmed by students Tina Epchook (Organized Village of Kwethluk) and Terrell Martinez (Navajo Nation), Admissions Recruiter Curtis Wilhelmi (Menominee), and Career and Internship Director Lorissa Garcia (Acoma Pueblo).

Notably, this year’s twenty-five Miss Indian World contestants included contestant #9, current IAIA student Xeneca LeClair (Otoe-Missouria Tribe), from Red Rock, Oklahoma, who is pursuing a degree in Cinematic Arts and Technology, and contestant #16, and IAIA alumni Faithlyn Seawright (Chickasaw, Choctaw) ’21, from Ada, Oklahoma, who graduated with a BFA in Museum Studies. The Miss Indian World contestants represented many tribes—as varied as Seminole, Luiseño, and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation—and participated in personal interviews, an essay, a talent presentation, a public speaking competition, and a dance competition. Seawright wore six Chickasaw dresses over the five-day pageant—she made five­ herself.

The IAIA Communications Department went Friday to support the two IAIA-affiliated contestants during their public speaking competition. Seawright and LeClair, among other contestants, had to answer a question on the spot. LeClair was asked about what she was most proud of regarding her tribe. “My favorite thing has to be our dancing. Every time like winter encampment, summer encampment come, I just can’t wait to put on my outfit, dance for my people, and dance with my relatives,” said LeClair. “We always end up having a soldier dance and I really love that because it’s different than a lot of round dances. We dance for the people, and we sing for the people, and I’m just glad for our community to keep going and growing after what happened the past two years, and I just hope to continue on, to be able to be there for my people, and all of Indian Country. Warigroxi ki, thank you.”

Seawright was asked about her tribe’s footwear. “Traditional footwear for my tribe is actually the pucker-toe moccasins,” she explained. “I do not have a pair on today, as I’m walking. We do not have a hard sole. It is made from one piece of deerskin, and it goes around—it fits like a sock. Sometimes if you wear socks with it, it’s like you just have two socks on. And you can bead it; you can adorn it with beadwork. We have given these as gifts to presidents in the past that are now in museums that can be seen on display. And you just sew it up. You can sew it up like a baseball stitch—back and forth—or you can do a running stitch—run it right through—, and you can have a new pair in about 10–30 minutes, depending on how fast you are. And I usually make my own. Yakoke.

When contestant #15, the poised Tori McConnell (Yurok and Karuk Tribes of Northwestern California), took the stage and her Karuk affiliation was announced, IAIA Communications Social Media and Content Coordinator Nicole Lawe (Karuk) ’16—who was taking photos—excitedly exclaimed, “That’s my tribe!” McConnell was later crowned Miss Indian World.

IAIA is proud to see students, alums, and the larger Indigenous community positively represent their cultures on an international and intertribal platform.


Photographs by Nicole Lawe (Karuk) ’16