Preserving Choctaw Culture: Princess Pageant

The annual Choctaw Indian Fair is in full swing. And in the heart of the festivities, a new princess has taken reign.

MeShay LeAnn Jimmie is the 60th Choctaw princess to be crowned. Choosing a princess is a process that is not taken lightly among the Choctaw people. The winner of the princess pageant serves as an ambassador for her tribe.

"I get to travel to different places, meet with different tribes and talk to other people, and represent my tribe as well, and let them know who I am as the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians," she says.

The princess also becomes a role model to the youth. MeShay says she knows there will be plenty of young girls looking up to her just as she looked up to the Choctaw princesses when she was a child.

"As a little girl growing up, seeing them with their beautiful evening gowns and beautiful traditional wear, it inspired me because I thought, 'I want to be just like that one day,'" she says.

And it takes more than just a beautiful face to achieve that goal. As a judge for this pageant, I was fortunate enough to be able to experience, firsthand, the importance that the tribe places on culture throughout the competition. Girls must know the traditions and history of their heritage. They communicate their knowledge through what they say and what they wear.

"My medallion represents the sun, and my chevron pattern represents the river," she explains. "As the thunderbird soars through the sky and flies over the river. And I thought, that just inspired me."

The pageant ensures that the girl who will represent the Choctaw tribe is someone who knows her people's culture and how to display it. so Choctaw tradition will be carried on for generations through young women who know how to be a princess, inside and out.