Miss Colville Confederated Tribes

Shandiina Nanamkin-Spencer of Keller will serve as your Miss CCT for the next year

*—a spark.

A single, tiny ignition lighting a fire inside a tribal youth, to be a better person, to go to college, to live a clean life, to celebrate tradition, to dance—to be proud of their Colville tribal heritage.

That’s Miss Colville Confederated Tribes’ goal in her yearlong royalty tenure: to inspire young people through her example.

The first royalty for the Colville Confederated Tribes in nearly a decade, Shandiina Nanamkin-Spencer is old for the position, 24, at the top of the allowed age range, but she doesn’t look it.

She gets along best with youth, she said, youth and elders.

To children, she can relate. She had a good childhood, growing up in Keller, and she wants that for all children.

But she can talk with elders as well.

And elders have played a large part in her life.

The first crown she held was for Little Miss Poppy, for which a tribal elder had encouraged her to compete.

She has also served as Little Miss Colville Confederated Tribes, Little Miss Spirit of the Eagle, Miss Omak Stampede from 2008-2011 and Miss Northwest Indian Youth Conference.

She had long dreamed of holding the Miss CCT crown, but when she turned 18, the Miss CCT program was in hiatus.

It re-started this year when Colville Tribal Education and Employment Director Tammy James-Pino presented a recommendation to the Colville Business Council to fund the position.

At college at the time, Nanamkin-Spencer jumped at the opportunity.

As Little Miss Poppy, she had traveled with her brother Keller Condon, who served as Mr. CCT at the time, and as Little Miss CCT, she served under Kim Vargas, who she called an inspiration.

“It feels good when people say they look up to me and I come from a good family,” said Nanamkin-Spencer.

“They say they’re proud of me going to powwows, participating, sitting down and watching people dance. That they’re glad to see me putting myself out there in a good way.”

The royalty position is a full time job.

Following the Fourth of July Powwow where she was given the crown, Nanamkin-Spencer has to nearly 15 powwows and school visits.

She went to Standing Rock after the Bismarck Powwow, where she introduced herself in nsxelcin and met tribal members from around the country.

She said she’d like to return to the camps formed to make a stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline: “I want to do my part in helping everyone there. If I need to cook for people, I will. If I need to clean, I will. If I need to work with children, or work with adults on part of the children, I will,” said Nanamkin-Spencer.

But her favorite powwow was a small one celebrating sobriety in Inchelium.

At the Spirit of the Eagle Powwow, she danced with her niece and saw the faces of those watching light up.

An elder woman dragged her off the floor to introduce herself.

Another elder dragged her off the floor again to say thank you for coming: It meant a lot for those present, who celebrated their sobriety.

“Something about them uplifted me,” she said. “They told me I was helping them in a way, uplifting their spirits too.”

She took a year off school after she finished her Associate of Arts degree in studio art from the Santa Fe, New Mexico American Indian Art Institute. She returned home to serve and inspire.

After this, she will return to AIAI to study Indigenous Liberal Studies. Eventually, she may go to law school.

This is another thing she wants to teach young tribal members: “I want them to learn about their culture and encourage them to finish high school and further their education through college, community college. Get your associate’s degree, bachelors, masters doctorate, doctorate.”

“Your education doesn’t end in one place,” she said.

Following college, Nanamkin-Spencer doesn’t see her education ending. She wants to travel across the country, reservation-to-reservation, learning what the different tribal communities can offer, especially concerning combatting domestic violence, resisting drug and alcohol use and encouraging youth.

But first, here—working for you as your Miss CCT.

Justus Caudell writes In the Non-Diegetic. He grew up off-the-grid in Keller, but can now be reached at his office in Nespelem.

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