Road trips often result in the deepest reflections. Long hours of highways and changing landscapes, delving further into unknowns and driving further away from what we know, who we know and where we come from.
On this trip in particular, I have been thinking about each and every one of you. Everyone who is taking the time to read my thoughts carefully typed out into constructive sentences, everyone who has lovingly supported this journey, and those who have inspired and mentored me throughout my years of growing up. Those who have come into my life to teach me lessons, those who have offered kind words of support or critique and most of all, my close and distant family who have been the backbone and foundation for all that I do. I truly appreciate and honour all of you. I keep you close to my heart as I embark on this new adventure.
As we left Winnipeg, I was mixed with emotion. I was full of fear and sadness as I drove further away from those I love, my friends and community. However I was full of an immense amount of excitement, knowing that I would be driving toward a new experience with the potential to change my life, a chance and platform to stand proudly as a Nihithaw and Anishinaabe woman. Growing up, through ceremony and powwows I was greeted with that pride of our community. It was my home and it was through dance where I learned my biggest life lessons about myself. This included my limits, fears, visions and ultimately my Indigenous identity. It was also through dance where I was met with boundless opportunities to meet with other cultural communities, spread awareness and education about our Indigenous nations in Canada, to speak on behalf of the teachings that I was gifted with, to dance for that healing for our peoples, to put a smile on a diverse array of audiences, to instill that hope within our elders that the next generation was continuing with our dances and teachings and to reconnect to those deep depths of who I am.
The first day was fairly easy, only driving a few hours to Fargo, North Dakota. The second day we managed to drive through 3 states! Making sure we had enough time to stop, move about a little, dance, practice my speech, fuel our bodies with nutrition and maybe a little too much chocolate and popcorn and enjoy the scenic route. We even had time to greet the gorgeous Missouri River that popped up just as we turned a corner, its waters glistening in the sunlight. We said hello, dipped our toes in, skipped a few pebbles and kept on.
All the while, I was thinking about everyone back home in Winnipeg and the intense April snowstorm that hit, wondering what everyone was getting up to and then also thinking about the pageant and how it will be like meeting all of the other beautiful young women. Also pondering about what the competition was going to be like and if I’d do well. Wondering about this huge responsibility that we all took upon, to be ambassadors, role models and mentors and the huge responsibility it will be to who ever takes that crown. How beautiful it will be to witness in person, side by a side, a new Miss Indian World. I can’t wait to fully commit myself to learning all that I can, trying my ultimate best, pushing past my own walls and barriers that I had built over so many years and to conquer my fears to find all that is meant for me on that other side of fear.
For the Miss Indian World pageant, there are 5 elements that we all had to focus on, an essay we had to write, a personal interview, public speaking, the talent presentation and then the dance competition. Then all in between we have moments to grow our friendship among us 24 women, where life long friendships will be formed, inspiration will grow, motivation will manifest and an inner evolution, a fire, will ignite in all of us.
Today we start a new day, finally reaching our destination of Albuquerque, New Mexico and then the chance to finally meet everyone and start our amazing experience will begin tomorrow evening! If you are interested in keeping up to date, please make sure to follow my facebook page here www.facebook.com/shanleymary! You can also livestream the public events online (this includes the talent presentations, the 1st day of the powwow with the dance competition and grand entry introductions and the last day of the powwow with the awards and crowing!). The livestream can be found here www.powwows.com. Perhaps leave me some comments below and I will be sure to respond as soon as I can!
I look forward to representing my swampy Cree/Nihithaw roots from Mathias Colomb Cree Nation in Pukatawagan, Manitoba. I also look forward to representing my Ojibway/Anishinaabe roots from Lake St. Martin First Nation, as well as my birthplace and home of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and to represent all of you who have been a part of my life. Elders, community members, family, friends, youth, mentors, teachers and those amazing souls who have guided mine in the most profound ways. I hope to continue to speak from the heart, follow my heart and to lead with light and love to best of my ability.
Kinanaskomitinawow, love you all.