Biographies of MIA Winners

Portraits taken by Don Diers, Archie Nash, Rochford Studios, Ziemer Studios and Grunkemeyer Studios. (Photographs were taken by several different studios. This list might not be complete.)

01 1953Arlene002 (2).tif

Miss Indian America I - 1953

ARLENE WESLEY

Yakama Nation 

02 1954Mary001.tif

Miss Indian America II - 1954

MARY LOUISE DEFENDER

Yanktonai

03 1955Rita002.tif

Miss Indian America III - 1955

RITA ANN MCLAUGHLIN 

Hunkpapa Lakota

04 Sandra.jpg

Miss Indian America IV - 1956

SANDRA GOVER

Skidi Pawnee

05 1957Ruth001.tif

Miss Indian America V - 1957

RUTH LARSON

Gros Ventre

06 1959Delores004.tif

Miss Indian America VI - 1959

DELORES RACINE 

Blackfeet

07 1960 Vivian007-.tif

Miss Indian America VII - 1960

VIVIAN ARVISO

Navajo

08 1961Brenda005.tif

Miss Indian America VIII - 1961

BRENDA BEARCHUM

Northern Cheyenne 

09 MIA AAID005 (3).tif

Miss Indian America IX - 1962

RAMONA SOTO

Klamath

10 1963 Williamette007.tif

Miss Indian America X - 1963

WILLAMETTE YOUPEE

Sisseton-Yankton Dakota

11 MIA AAID002-portwood.tif

Miss Indian America XI - 1964

MICHELE PORTWOOD

Arapaho

12 Sharron012.tif

Miss Indian America XII - 1965

SHARRON AHTONE HARJO

Kiowa

13 1966Wahleah 3 feathers.tif

Miss Indian America XIII - 1966

WAHLEAH LUJAN

Taos Pueblo

14 1967 Sarah012.tif

Miss Indian America XIV - 1967

SARAH JOHNSON

Navajo

15 1968 Thomasine013.tif

Miss Indian America XV - 1968

THOMASINE HILL

Crow-Pawnee

Miss Indian America XVI - 1969

MARGERY HAURY

Cheyenne-Arapaho-Navajo-Sioux

Miss Indian America XVII - 1970

VIRGINIA STROUD

Keetoowah Cherokee 

18 1971 Nora016 (2) (1).tif

Miss Indian America XVIII - 1971

NORA BEGAY

Navajo

Miss Indian America XIX - 1972

LOUISE EDMO

Shoshone-Bannock

20 1973 Maxine018 1111.tif

Miss Indian America XX - 1973

MAXINE NORRIS

Papago

21 1974 Claire019.tif

Miss Indian America XXI - 1974

CLAIRE MANNING

Shoshone-Paiute

22 1975 Deana020.tif

Miss Indian America XXII - 1975

deana jo harragarra  

Otoe-Kiowa 

23 1976 Kristine021.tif

Miss Indian America XXIII - 1976

KRISTINE RAYOLA HARVEY

White Mountain Apache

24 MIA June 2015-155.tif

Miss Indian America XXIV - 1977

GRACIE WELCH

Mohave-Chemehuevi-Yavapai

25 Susan1978 025.tif

Miss Indian America XXV - 1978

SUSAN ARKEKETA 

Otoe-Missouria-Creek

26 1979 Melanie024 (1).tif

Miss Indian America XXVI - 1980

MELANIE TALLMADGE

Winnebago-Minnesota Sioux

27 Jerilyn027.tif

Miss Indian America XXVII - 1981

JERILYN LEBEAU 

Cheyenne River Sioux

28 1981 Vivian026.tif

Miss Indian America XXVIII - 1982

VIVIAN JUAN 

Papago

29 debbieXXIX009.tif

Miss Indian America XXIX - 1984

DEBORAH SECAKUKU

Hopi

29 Ann Louise.jpg

Miss Indian America XXIX - 1984

ANN LOUISE WILLIE

White Mountain Apache-Paiute

30 Jorga Orbly010.tif

Miss Indian America XXX - 1985

JORJA FRANCES OBERLY

Osage-Comanche-Nez Perce

31 Adrua012 1234.tif

Miss Indian America XXXI - 1986

AUDRA ARVISO

Navajo

32 LINDA011.tif

Miss Indian America XXXII - 1987

LINDA KAY LUPE

White Mountain Apache

33 bobbett013.tif

Miss Indian America XXXIII - 1988

BOBETTE KAY WILDCAT

Shoshone

Miss Indian America XXXIV - 1989

WONDA JOHNSON 

Navajo

Major Contributors and Organizers 

 

Howard Sinclair,

a Sheridan newspaperman, wrote about the discriminatory policies Native Americans faced in his column, Neckyoke Jones. Sinclair aimed to instill a sense of empathy and understanding among Non-Indians by sharing stories of prejudice and showcasing Native cultural practices. When Lucy Yellowmule won the title of Rodeo Queen in 1951, Sinclair saw the event as an opportunity to expand his mission. He developed a campaign to introduce Yellowmule to business owners and community leaders in Sheridan. Consequently, organizations and businesses began to welcome Native American patrons. Riding off the success of Yellowmule’s campaign, Sinclair and Sheridan leaders organized the first All American Indian Days and Miss America Pageant. 

 

Joe Medicine Crow,

served as a Board Member and Master of Ceremonies at the Miss Indian America Pageant. Within these roles, Medicine Crow emceed competitions, recorded an album entitled “The Story of Miss Indian America,” and revived dancing traditions, including the powwow. 

 

Don Deernose

encouraged Native  participation at All American Indian Days by visiting reservations across the country, and extending invitations to tribal leaders. Deernose also served as a chaperone to Miss Indian America winners during their travels across the country. 

 

Susie Yellowtail,

a nurse and cultural ambassador for the Crow Nation, served as a host for several contestants visiting the Crow Nation. Furthermore, Yellowtail acted as a chaperone for Miss Indian America winners throughout their travels.