A Fort Lewis College junior last week received one of the most prestigious honors among Native American and indigenous people.
Jessa Rae Growing Thunder was named Miss Indian World at the Gathering of Nations, the most prominent Native American powwow in the world.
Growing Thunder is a member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux tribes and is studying Native American and indigenous studies at Fort Lewis College. She was one of 28 Native American women who competed in the areas of tribal knowledge, dancing ability, public speaking and personality assessment.
During the talent part of the competition, held in Albuquerque, Growing Thunder told the story of how the horse was introduced into her culture and the values that came along with the new animal. She also did a healing dance that women traditionally put on for people who need prayers.
It took eight months to prepare for the competition, Growing Thunder said.
Her grandmother raised her to take pride in and continue her culture and heritage, Growing Thunder said. This title completely embodies that ability to represent not only your tribe, but all nations, she said.
As Miss Indian World, Growing Thunder will travel to native and indigenous communities around the world as a cultural goodwill ambassador.
This weekend she will attend her first powwow with the title in San Bernardino, Calif.
Miss Indian World provides a cultural link between tribes and helps bring together native and indigenous people throughout the world, Gathering of Nations founder Derek Mathews said in a news release.
When Growing Thunder was crowned, former Miss Indian World Marjorie Tahbone gave her one piece of advice.
She told me always know what you believe in, always stand strong for what you believe in, Growing Thunder said. When you have that, you will always know who you are.