Home Arts & Culture Alfred makes the cut for inaugural pageant 

Alfred makes the cut for inaugural pageant 

Courtesy Kahentísa’s Alfred

Those close to Kahentísa’s Alfred know she’s got an impulsive streak – trying things on a whim has never scared her. And sometimes it’s what pushes her to put herself out there. 

That’s exactly what she did when she applied to participate in the inaugural edition of the Miss Indigenous Canada pageant – and it paid off.

“I was so excited,” said Alfred. “Just being accepted into this is such a huge honor.”

Alfred is one of 26 selected to compete out of over 600 who submitted the initial online application form. 

She is the sole Kanien’kehá:ka contestant in the three-day countrywide contest slated for July 24-27 in Six Nations. The contest will be Alfred’s first-ever time competing in a pageant.

“It’s an opportunity to present myself, along with Kahnawake, and show that we are very capable people,” she said.

Director and committee head of Miss Indigenous Canada Aleria McKay, from Six Nations of the Grand River, had the idea to create this pageant to offer a stage coast to coast in Canada devoted to culturally relevant, Indigenous-focused pageants. It’s been a project in the works for two years.

“It really is an honour for me to be able to create this platform for young Indigenous women,” said McKay, who’s been involved in the world of pageantry for 12 years and is former Miss Six Nations and Miss Teenage Ontario.

“We really wanted to emphasize community service, cultural involvement, and the leadership and ambassador qualities of the contestants,” she said, adding the pageant will omit the customary modelling component and rather focus on platforming Indigenous talent.

The pageant is divided into categories, one of which tasks participants to make a community scrapbook identifying meaningful places in their hometown and their involvement with local initiatives, and another which is an essay-writing component, prompting contestants to explain what being an ambassador means to them.

Alfred’s campaign will focus on language revitalization, a cause close to her heart she’s dedicated herself to over the years. 

This is something her mother, Kwawenná:wi Diabo, can attest to, having seen Alfred graduate from Mohawk immersion elementary school Karihwanoron, and now soon to graduate from the two-year Kanien’kéha Ratiwennahní:rats Adult Immersion Program. 

“She realized how much she actually knew, but how much more there is to learn,” said Diabo, adding she’s glad her daughter is among those devoted to the language’s resurgence in the community. “It’s a positive endeavor. Working on the language is important to a lot of people now,” added Diabo, who also graduated from Ratiwennahní:rats years ago.

Alfred admitted facing moments of frustration learning the language, but that hasn’t deterred her from her path. “You just got to remember what you’re doing it for. You’re not just learning for yourself, you’re learning for your whole community, your whole nation, to keep this part of us. Because if we lose our language, we basically lose ourselves.” 

Through it all, it’s her mother that Alfred has looked up to the most. “She’s such an inspiration to me and everything I do,” she said.

Alfred is no stranger to the stage, having been a competitive Irish dancer in her teens and having performed in the jingle dress and smoke dance categories in recent years.  She’ll have the opportunity to perform her smoke dance during the traditional presentation portion of the event, which will take place in person, alongside an interview component.

As a beading enthusiast, she’s also taken it upon herself to handcraft an entirely new green cotton ensemble for the pageant, with pink accents throughout and an array of accessories from head to toe. “I have to add pink to everything I own,” she said. 

The pageant also opened the door for new connections with like-minded participants who are also devoted to advancing Onkwehón:we rights and sharing knowledge, she said. 

“There are a lot of good people out there,” said Alfred. 

Until July, Alfred will be preparing for the pageant, and her message to those supporting her in this journey is simple. “You can do anything that you really put your mind to,” she said. 

“We’ve got a lot of significant people in this town and just having a chance to be one person who’s doing a little something is pretty cool.”

nanor.fr@gmail.com

This article was originally published in print on May 3 in issue 33.18 of The Eastern Door.

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Nanor is a reporter and copy editor with The Eastern Door. She was previously the managing editor and creative director at The Link.

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Nanor is a reporter and copy editor with The Eastern Door. She was previously the managing editor and creative director at The Link.