Being Miss Indian America for a Year

Miss Indian America pageant winners spent a year traveling around the United States and Europe, speaking about their Indian communities and trying to correct misconceptions about them. The reigning Miss Indian America was considered to be a cultural ambassador between Indian and non-Indians, often speaking to groups of people who had never been around Indians before. Through speaking engagements, public appearances, conferences, and other events, Miss Indian America represented and advocated for their respective tribal nation, culture, and land while promoting the contest and encouraging positive Indian-white relations. The winners worked to break down stereotypes about Indian culture and history, represented the All American Indian Days (AAID) organization, their tribes, and their families throughout the year. In addition to her mandatory year-long residency with a host family in Sheridan, Miss Indian America was accompanied by a chaperone, usually a woman, during her reign.

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Sarah Ann Johnson, MIA XIV (1967-68), left, in Paris, France with Michele Portwood, MIA XI (1964-65), right, who served as Johnson's chaperone, during the MIA international tour. Credit: Photographer Unknown. All-American Indian Days collection, THE Wyoming Room, Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library, Sheridan, Wyoming.

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In this photograph from 1970, Margery Haury, MIA XVI (1969-70), meets with President Richard Nixon, center, and Senator Cliff Hansen, right, the former governor of Wyoming. Several MIA winners attended presidential inaugurations during their yearlong goodwill tour. Credit: Photographer Unknown. All-American Indian Days collection, THE Wyoming Room, Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library, Sheridan, Wyoming.

Wahleah Lujan, MIA XIII (1966-67), left, meets with Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, center, and First Lady of the United States Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson, right. Credit: Photographer Unknown. All-American Indian Days collection, THE Wyoming Room, Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library, Sheridan, Wyoming.