Oglala woman to compete in "Miss Indian World Pageant" :Along the Way

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A young woman from Oglala is one of 24 Native American women competing in the 'Miss Indian World' pageant: later this month in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

It's part of the 33rd Annual Gathering of Nations: described by promoters as "the most prominent Native American Pow Wow in the world".

This young woman's life has not been easy. But she is determined to make a difference: 'A Long the Way" in Oglala.

Steve Long: Santana Young Man lives in the home she grew up in, with her parents and her siblings in the town of Oglala, on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Santana Young Man says, "My Lakota name is (speaks in Lakota), which means: when she speaks they listen."

Perhaps not only her name, but her destiny, with hopes and dreams as strong as a gusty wind.

She says, "I'm 23 years old and I'm a Sophomore at Oglala College Center and I'm studying Tribal Law"

But her dreams are not of bigger places, not of leaving the most impoverished county in America, her home is here.

Santana Young Man says, "My family's traditional. So I grew up in a traditional home, you know going to sweats and sun dances, and learning about the way."

She loves her culture. She loves to dance. And is in fact, the reigning Miss Oglala Nation, representing the entire reservation.

"I've always wanted to make a change, like a positive change here where I live. Because you know everybody stereotypes us as alcoholics and poor and nobody here is gonna go anywhere," she says.

Her vision is to make a difference, right here where her roots are deep, and where she sees potential all around her.

She says, "And I want to make a change, like show everybody you don't have to stay here. You could get off and go do something. If you want to come back you can or if you want to stay away you can."

Paulina Fast Wolf ,The Director of the Oglala College Center, says Santana is a very kind hearted person.

Paulina Fast Wolf says, "Determined. She's a very good student here. She's also our Student Org president, so she's always showing up to the college here and willing to help students."

She not only studies here, she works here as a tutor.

"What I do is I tutor anybody who has problems in English and Math," she says.

And when she graduates from here with an Associates Degree in Tribal Law she does plan to leave temporarily: to go Law School.

"When I get my degree, I want to come back you know be a judge, like I said, for the juvenile system and like not punish them but maybe motivate them not to get in trouble because, " says Santana.

Seeing her dance is colorful, and her future is bright, but the fact that she can dance at all is a bit of a miracle. Santana was born early.

Santana Young Man says, "So I was only like 4 pounds when I was born. "

And her siblings, three sisters and a brother, were also preemies ranging from just 3 to 5 pounds at birth.

Santana says,"Yeah, the Doctors said like we wouldn't grow as tall as the other kids and we'd probably be like in the Special Needs class and we wouldn't be able to play sports so everyone's like surprised when they see us."

They're all miracles. All healthy. All strong. Her ornate dance outfits are made by her Mother. Part of the Miss Indian World pageant will include dancing.

"Well I love dancing. I've danced since I was 3 years old," Santana says.

But she hasn't always been this bold.

Santana Young Man (Clip 3 @ 5:30): "I was really shy so I would only go out there if my Mom was out there until I hit high school and I started getting that competitive streak and I wanted to compete, everything. So I started doing that."

Part of the pageant will include cultural tribal knowledge, as well as public speaking. For her that may include:

"The women's roles and how they're the backbone of our society," says Santana.

As well as the sacredness of children in her culture.

Santana says, "Whenever a child is born they are choosing you to be their parent."

Clearly she is a pet lover, just look at her with her cat: and with her sister and their family dogs out in the yard. Beyond becoming a lawyer or a judge here, she wants to start an animal shelter someday. The reason, is heartbreaking.

Santana says,"I had a dog and some people beat him to death on our porch while we were at school and we came home to it and he was our dog for a long time. His name was Sarge."

It's well known that strays are an issue at Pine Ridge, she wants to be part of a positive solution.

Santana says "So I just wanted to start a shelter to get them off the streets so they like wouldn't harm humans and humans wouldn't harm them."

Seeing her dance, and wearing a crown it's easy to think her life has been a fairytale.

Santana says, "Like me and my sisters we dance for people who can't cause my mother got sick and she used to be a fancy dancer."

While her mother can no longer dance, she says her mother is a strong woman. You could say Santana is too.
Because instead of fleeing her homeland, she dreams of staying. She dreams of making a difference.

Santana says, "My Lakota name is (speaks in Lakota), which means when she speaks they listen."

Perhaps not just her name, but her destiny.

In addition to everything else she does, Santana plays basketball for Oglala Lakota College.

The Miss Indian World Pageant begins April 28th in Albuquerque.

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