Kayleigh Spencer represents Eeyou Istchee at Gathering of Nations’ Miss Indian World Pageant

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It was a whirlwind week for Eeyou Istchee’s Kayleigh Spencer. The inaugural Miss Eeyou/Eenou competed for a chance at the title of Miss Indian World 2017, from April 25-29, at the Gathering of Nations Powwow in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Spencer arrived on Monday with her chaperone, Linda Shecapio, the president of the Cree Women of Eeyou Istchee Association. Tuesday was orientation day for the girls. On Wednesday the competitors had private interviews with judges. Thursday was the traditional talent competition. The public speaking portion of the competition took place on Friday, and Miss Indian World was crowned on Saturday.

Unfortunately, Spencer won’t be bringing the crown home to Mistissini, but she has no regrets.

“I didn’t win, but I’m not disappointed at all. Just being able to go and experience it was awesome,” said Spencer. “I left feeling so much more confident and was already excited for the next girl from the Cree Nation who gets to represent us.”

The title did go to a First Nations woman from Quebec, however, as Raven Swamp, a Mohawk from Kahnawake, took home the crown.

While Spencer admits there were nerves, the encouragement she received from the community was a calming force.


Miss Indian World Raven Swamp


“We weren’t allowed to have our phones that first day but after we finished I checked my phone and saw dozens of posts on my wall,” Spencer told the Nation. “I felt so inspired. It was a real eye-opener to how supportive the Cree community is.”

For Spencer, seeing the Red Dress Jingle Dance in honour of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women is something she’ll never forget. “Everyone at the powwow was invited to wear a red jingle dress and participate in the tribute dance,” said Spencer. “It was so emotional and beautiful, I was really happy to have witnessed that.”

Spencer isn’t going home empty handed.

“I was surprised by how close I got with all the girls. I learned so much about their cultures, and we’re still all connected through social media,” said Spencer. “I feel like I gained 22 new sisters.

“I was one of two girls there who was fluent in their language, and it was a nice reminder of how rich the Cree Nation is in language and culture. Hopefully it will inspire girls to go after this opportunity, and this opportunity comes with knowing your language and being able to represent your culture.”

Spencer thanks the Cree Nation for its support, especially chaperone Linda Shecapio for being her “mom” for the week. “The week was so crazy and she kept me organized and it was amazing to feel so supported by the community,” said Spencer.

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