Bethel’s Megan Leary is the 2014 first runner up of the Miss Indian World competition, which concluded Saturday night at the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The contest brings together young, indigenous culture bearers from all over North America. Leary won the competition for best speech and best talent for her skin sewing.
Arriving at the Bethel Airport to cheers from family and friends, Leary, says it was them who made it possible for her to compete.
“Knowing that they were here at home watching me and I was a role model for them, and I was a leader for them When I there I was saying Win or lose, I came here to represent people back home, just thinking of them,” Leary said.
Twenty-three-year-old Leary is Yup’ik and Athabascan. She grew up in Kalskag and Napaimute, and graduated from Bethel Regional High School. She was Miss Cama-i 2013 and went on to become Miss World Eskimo Indian Olympics, or Miss Weio. The Miss Indian World competition involved a personal interview with judges and an impromptu public speaking competition.
“It was a funny question, my question was describe traditional food from your tribe,” Leary said. “So I described akutak, stinkheads, blackfish, stuff like that people were kind of grossed out the things we eat,”
For a traditional talent presentation, Leary showed off traditional skin sewing, which was done with the help of people all along the river. She was also judged on a dance performance in front of 20,000 people. Leary says she was thinking of all those she represents.
“You know, it made you so proud of who you were and what you’re representing,” Leary said. “You’re not going down there as yourself, you’re going down as everybody in your family, everybody in the Kuskokwim, everybody in the state of Alaska, because I was representing my title of Miss World Eskimo Indian Olympics, I’m going as an ambassador of Alaska Natives, I went down there for everybody, and all my ancestors.”
Taylor Thomas, a 21-year-old member of the Shoshone Bannock tribe, was crowned Saturday night as Miss Indian World.