ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO—Akeshia Shkaabewis of Whitefish River First Nation will be representing her community this week as the only Ontario contestant at the Miss Indian World pageant in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the Gathering of Nations Powwow.
The 25-year-old is a Whitefish River First Nation band member but also has family ties to Wiikwemikoong.
Ms. Shkaabewis is studying biology at Algoma University and plans to graduate with an honours degree in biology and a minor in Anishinaabemowin, after which she will be applying for her Masters in Public Health. “I hope to specialize in aboriginal health and then apply to medical school,” she explained to The Expositor.
Ms. Shkaabewis also competed in the Miss Indian World pageant last year, but wanted to return again this year.
“I have decided to return because it has always been a dream of mine after meeting Miss Indian World 2003, Onawa Lacy,” she shared. “The title to me is to represent the beauty and diversity of my culture. It is the opportunity to shed light on topics that affect Indian country. For me, I want to speak to issues such as aboriginal health, the importance of our water, education, both traditionally and new age education, and our beautiful missing and murdered indigenous women.”
“I want to have the opportunity to empower not only youth but everyone in Indian country to continue to chase after their dreams and follow their ambitions,” added Ms. Shkaabewis. “I have epilepsy and have worked really hard to get where I am in my education and there has been huge bumps in my road, but I never gave up on my educational goals, and I hope that my story can help inspire others dealing with disability to continue to persevere.”
The pageant includes a written essay, personal interview with the judges, a public speaking presentation, a talent component and a traditional dance demonstration.
“For my talent portion I will be showcasing some of the quillwork techniques used in the Great Lakes area,” she explained. “I am a jingle dress dancer, however for the dance portion I will be dancing old style scrub.”
Ms. Shkaabewis will be one of 24 Miss Indian World contestants in this year’s pageants, joining other indigenous women 18 to 25 from Canada and the US.