ADA, Okla. -- Amid tears, laughs and smiles, three ladies were chosen to serve as Chickasaw Nation envoys during the 2013-14 Chickasaw Princess Pageant held Sept. 30 in Ada, Okla.
Savannah Nicole Burwell, 20, Faithlyn Taloa Seawright, 15, and Jacee Grace Underwood, 8, all of Ada, were crowned Chickasaw Princess, Chickasaw Junior Princess and Little Miss Chickasaw respectively, by Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby.
“It is a source of great joy to see these young ladies take pride in our culture as they contend for a place among Chickasaw royalty,” said Gov. Anoatubby. “All of these extraordinary young ladies exemplify the best qualities of what it means to be Chickasaw. We look forward to the new princesses taking up the mantle of culture bearer. They will be carrying on the proud tradition of all those who have done an exceptional job of representing the Chickasaw Nation.”
The newly-crowned Chickasaw Nation Princesses will travel to numerous events and gatherings throughout the year across several states.
The new royalty will have the honor and privilege of representing the Chickasaw Nation at various events nationwide during their one-year reign.
Contestants were judged on the basis of traditional dress, poise and random questions.
There was also a talent portion of the competition. Singing, instrumental performances, storytelling and dance were just a few of the talents displayed.
The winners received a crown, traditional dress, shawl, sash, trophy, gifts and cash prizes.
Savannah Nicole Burwell was selected as Chickasaw Princess.
Ms. Burwell is the 20-year-old daughter of Jason Burwell and Leta Miller Burwell. She is a sophomore at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Durant, where she is majoring in business.
“Being Chickasaw Princess will open opportunities for me to share our rich history of who our people are. We are known as the “Great Unconquered and Unconquerable Chickasaw Nation” and, as I continue to learn, I do know much sacrifice and suffering was endured by our ancestors in creating the strong nation we are today,” she said.
“I enjoy being a role model to our young people and want to share how the old ways are the foundation of our success today. It’s important to know where we came from so we are prepared for the uncertainties of tomorrow.
“We are also challenged to preserve our language. More fluent speakers are needed and I know we, the young people, are important to nurturing and strengthening our language.
“As a child, I remember visiting my Memaw. She and my uncle would be at the kitchen table speaking our language but would grow silent or begin speaking English when company arrived. My parents and I have set a goal to become fluent speakers believing that, one day, there will be no silence and my children and their child will join in the conversation. Though a great endeavor, my parents have taught me we are never alone when taking on the challenges of life,” she said.
“There is so much to learn from our elders and I am thankful for what’s been passed on to me. We must all cherish these moments keeping them fresh and alive.
“Being Miss Chickasaw will open doors of opportunity to share with our young ones, as well as the world outside our Oklahoma boundaries,” she added.
Faithlyn Taloa Seawright was selected Chickasaw Junior Princess.
Ms. Seawright is the 15-year-old daughter of Larry Seawright and Gwendolyn Burris. She is a sophomore at Latta High School, Ada, Okla.
“I am 15 years old and an honor student at Latta High School where I am an FCCLA member, a student of the Gifted and Talented program and a member of Governor’s Honor Club. I am involved in many activities: Chickasaw Choir, Chikasha Apihchi Ikbi (Creating Chickasaw Leaders), Chickasaw School of Guitar, Chickasaw Summer Arts Academy, Oklahoma Federation of Indian Women, All Nation Pow-Wow committee, a summer youth worker at Arts and Humanities and a member of Round Lake Indian Church. I’ve been a student in the Chickasaw language program and will continue my studies when the new season begins this fall,” she said in her contestant profile.
“I am 47/64 Chickasaw/Choctaw. My late grandparents are Rev. Lee (4/4 Chickasaw/Choctaw) and Mildren Bohanon Burris (7/8 Chickasaw/Choctaw) and Jack and Elsie Keel Seawright (4/4 Chickasaw). My great-grandfather Noah Burris was 4/4 Chickasaw as was my great-grandfather Archison Keel.
“I am currently the 2013 All Nations Pow-Wow of Ada Princess and have held this title for two years. I have had the privilege and experience to travel and attend many events as Princess. Holding this title has helped me to gain public relation skills which I utilize in every area of my life and I have had much fun in representing our committee,” she said in the profile.
“As Chickasaw Junior Princess, I will be an ambassador for our unconquered and unconquerable Chikasha people. Wearing this crown and being recognized as Junior Miss will be a great honor and I will enjoy every minute of immersing with our people, culture and traditions. I’ve had the pleasure of participating in various Chickasaw organizations and greatly cherish the friendships and opportunities I’ve made while learning about our tribe.
“Being Junior Miss will enable me to increase my knowledge of our history, from our removal from Mississippi to our ever-advancing innovations in our tribe. There are always new camps and programs that give me and other youth the opportunity to discover our talents and I enjoy these times of sharpening my skills,” she stated.
“As Junior Miss, I will encourage our youth to be actively involved in our tribe, whether it’s being in Apihchi Ikbi, CSSA or going to the Halloween lock-in. I am grateful to be a member in many organizations because I’m given the tools to experience different areas and this has helped me as a young artist.
“I plan to attend college as an art major and I love to draw and write. I’ve entered my artwork in several contests such as the Native American Language Fair, the Dynamic Women of the Chickasaw Nation Conference and Forum, Chickasaw Southeastern Art Show and Market and 2013 Red Earth youth art competitions. Two of my illustrations are published in the upcoming Footprints Still Whispering in the Wind (Chickasaw Press) and I was recently invited as one of seven youth Chickasaw artists to assist artist Brent Greenwood on a “Chikasha Yanush” project. “As a 2011 CSSA student, I wrote a poem Heart of a Dancer and this was published in the world-wide magazine The Cumberland Presbyterian. I am grateful to the Chickasaw Nation for allowing me these opportunities to enhance and showcase my art.
“As Chickasaw Junior Princess, I shall be a positive example and represent our people in the highest fashion,” she added.
Jacee Grace Underwood is the 8-year-old daughter of Joseph Underwood and Eugenia Postoak Underwood. She is in the third grade at Homer Elementary School, Ada, Okla.
She is following in her mother’s footsteps.
“I think it will be fun to see new places and meet new people. Being princess will be a new adventure for me. It will be an honor to represent the Chickasaw Nation on my new adventures.
“Also, because my Mema was Chickasaw Princess and I look up to her for being a strong Chickasaw woman and leader,” she added.
Julie Underwood was named the first runner-up 2013-2014 Chickasaw Princess; Chickasaw Junior Princess first runner-up was Hailey Ellis and first runner-up as Little Miss Chickasaw was Lauren Key.
The 2012-2013 Chickasaw royalty, Chickasaw Princess Autumn Underwood, Ada; Chickasaw Junior Princess Chelsea Wedlow, Ada; and Little Miss Chickasaw Payton Robertson, Ada, also bid farewell at the Chickasaw Princess pageant.
Ms. Robertson told the capacity crowd she could not believe the year she served went by so quickly.
“It makes me sad that I will no longer be Little Miss Chickasaw, but I know the new Little Miss Chickasaw will have as much fun as I had and that makes me happy,” she said. She thanked all of the people who encouraged her to compete for the title and said serving has boosted her confidence. “I have learned so much this last year about my Chickasaw heritage,” she added.
Chickasaw Junior Princess Chelsea Wedlow thanked her family and supporters for making her realize “I come from a long line of strong Chickasaw women. I served the Chickasaw Nation and stood tall representing the people of the unconquered and unconquerable Chickasaw Nation,” she said. Ms. Wedlow drew laughter from the crowd when she related how her brothers teased her about being a princess, but she thanked them for “keeping me grounded in my thoughts and actions” during her reign.
Chickasaw Princess Autumn Underwood echoed Ms. Robertson’s sentiments, saying “it seems hard to believe a year has passed, but I thank God for making me worthy enough to hold the title of Chickasaw Princess,” she said. “The memories I have will be enough to last a lifetime,” she added. “Never give up on the beauty of your dreams,” she advised this year’s contestants, adding “always be strong and never give up.”
Royalty from other tribes were also special guests at the pageant.
For more information about the Chickasaw Princess Pageant, call (580) 310-6620.