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New Miss Indian Nations crowned at United Tribes
12 September 2009

BISMARCK (UTN) – The tribes of North Dakota have a new ambassador of native culture, whose heritage is from prominent Lakota families at Standing Rock. Jennifer Mellette, a 20 year old college student from McLaughlin, SD is the new Miss Indian Nations.

      Miss Mellette began her one-year reign September 12 during the United Tribes International Powwow.

HONOR AT POWWOW: Newly crowned Miss Indian Nations XVII, Jennifer Mellette receives congratulatory handshakes during a song in her honor at the 40th Annual United Tribes International Powwow. United Tribes News photo Dennis J. Neumann.

      The powwow audience watched and applauded as outgoing title holder, Alyssa Alberts (Three Affiliated), took off the Miss Indian Nations crown and placed it onto the head of the seventeenth young woman to hold the honor.

      “I’ve always wanted to be Miss Indian Nations, ever since I can remember,” said Miss Mellette to the crowd of over four-thousand ringing the powwow arena.

      Single, non-parent American Indian women ages 17 to 26 have competed since 1991 to be at the center of the program that emphasizes leadership and cross-cultural education, and involves travel and public appearances.

      With an honor song playing, she was escorted around the arena to receive handshakes and congratulatory hugs from friends and well-wishers. The pageant’s First Runner Up was Samantha Jo Ridley, Miss Standing Rock.

      Miss Mellette is a member of the Standing Rock Tribe. She is a junior at Northern State University, Aberdeen, SD, studying political science and criminal justice. She hopes to have a career in tribal, state and national politics. One of her ambitions is to become chairperson of the Standing Rock Tribe.

      Her knowledge and appreciation of tribal culture is rooted in her family heritage. She hails from two renowned Standing Rock families. She is a descendant of the Hunkpapa Lakota Chief Gall on her father’s side, and from Sitting Bull’s camp on her mother’s side of the family.

      She is the daughter of Beverly Iron Shield and Ben Mellette Jr. Her maternal grandparents are Martha Dobler and Wallace Iron Shield; her paternal grandparents are Salina End of Horn Mellette and Ben Mellette Sr. She has two brothers from her mother, James and Jody, and other siblings in her father’s family, as well as hunka brothers and sisters.

      Her training as a cultural ambassador began when she was awarded her first royalty title as a child over 15 years ago in her home district: Little Miss Bear Soldier. She has held numerous other titles, including two reigns as Miss Standing Rock, Miss Indian Youth 2000, Miss 7th Generation Youth Council and Miss Black Hills.

      Miss Mellette’s Lakota name, Ta Sunke Gli Nanji Win, was her great grandmother’s name. She received it from her paternal grandmother, Salina Mellette, who explained that it was her mother’s name and it involved her mother’s horse. According to the story, she and her horse were bonded so closely that no matter where she went or how she tied it up, the horse would break free and find her. So it was decided that her name would be Ta Sunke Gli Nanji Win, “Her Horse Returns.”

      Miss Mellette returned to United Tribes this year after two previous appearances as a participant in the Miss Indian Nations Pageant. Now, as the title holder, she will represent the United Tribes of North Dakota in appearances locally and around the country for the next year. United Tribes Technical College coordinates the scheduling. Sponsorships and contributions are accepted to help underwrite the program.

      For more information or to schedule an appearance, contact Miss Indian Nations at United Tribes Technical College, 3315 University Drive, Bismarck, ND, 58504, 701-255-3285. Visit the website min.unitedtribespowwow.com.