NESPELEM - The first several weeks of Miah Bearcub’s reign as Miss Colville Confederated Tribes were challenging; she hadn’t been on the powwow trail for a few years, she said, and there was much to relearn. But it was fun.
“It was a way to grow,” she said. “I wanted to step into a more traditional path, where I could express what I believe in and empower youth that way.”
She spent several weeks sitting back, meeting mentors and other powwow royalty. She was preparing for upcoming bigger powwows when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States’ soils – where the impact was felt disproportionately in Indian Country – cancelling nearly all gatherings.
The pandemic seemingly put an early end to Bearcub’s reign, but in Special Session May 6, the Colville Business Council unanimously voted to extend the term of the 2019-2020 Miss Colville Confederated Tribes to July 2021.
“A lot of the mandatories powwows that Miah has to go to were cancelled, one of which was running for Miss Indian World, another was Gathering of Nations, another was Denver March, all the bigger powwows,” said Tammy James, director of the Colville Tribes Employment and Education Division. “She was interested in extending her reign. We went to council and they approved it.”
Bearcub is excited for the extended experience.
“I was really interested when one of my older mentors mentioned extending the reign longer,” said Bearcub. “I’m looking forward to the next year. I get to experience more, practice our traditions more, get more experienced with our title and how to empower people with the title. There are a lot of new things I learned since having the crown and I’m excited to learn more. I love being able to represent my people and carry that title as Miss CCT.”
When asked what she has learned, Bearcub quickly answers: “A lot of things. I’ve learned it’s a lot easier to ask people for help, to approach elders, older women and older men, to help me than I had thought before. They’re interested in how the royalty thing works. I’ve learned a lot about how to talk to different people about it. When I’m at powwows, where there are spectators, a lot of people come to ask me about our culture. They ask about the way we dress, the way we dance, the differences and what things mean. I learned about how captivating the culture is from others.”
Previously, Bearcub had worked alongside Colville Tribal member James Pakootas in a movement titled, “Empower the future,” in which the duo and others traveled from community to community sharing their different stories of inspiration with tribal youth.
Looking into the next year, Bearcub said she is looking forward to more public speaking engagements.
“In the beginning, I put that to the side. I was more focused on getting in touch with dancing again and culture again. I know James has continued his route. I’m so happy for him,” she said. “When I do travel, I do make a point to speak, to ask questions. I think within this next year, I want to speak regularly. Talking to the youth and hearing what they have to say, telling them my story inspires them to talk to me. It comes full circle.”
Regardless how it comes out, Bearcub said her ultimate goal is to use the crown to bring people together.
“I think a lot of youth don’t realize how many elders are willing and want to teach them,” she said. “I met so many elders that just wish more youth were involved. It is just lack of communication. I know youth want to learn and I know elders want to teach what they know. I think what is going to happen in the next year is a lot of workshops, giving people the opportunity to connect.”