On Being a Princess
The first time I visited the Poarch Creek Indian Reservation in Atmore, Alabama, I was researching Chief William McIntosh at their museum. The hostess was very gracious and helpful. She said, “Oh, look who’s here! You will want to meet her.” She introduced me to a young woman – maybe high school, college – nicely dressed in work clothes, coming to work. “This is Miss Poarch Creek for this year. She was just selected last week.” The woman, whose deportment seemed shy, surprised me by walking toward me with her hand outstretched. “How do you do, Mrs. Klingel. I’m glad you came by today. Is there anything you’d like to know that I might help you with?” That was my first princess.
Last weekend I met two princesses from Oklahoma, one was Miss Muscogee and the other was Junior Miss Muscogee. Miss Muscogee is a student at the University of Oklahoma; Junior Miss is a high school student in Tulsa. As part of their program they each explained what it took to become a tribe’s princess. I hope all the little girls sitting in the bleachers wearing tutus and tiaras were listening.
First step is the essay. The subject is something she feels passionate about. Next comes her platform development, her passion in action. One’s passion is domestic violence against women. The other’s platform is underage drinking and alcohol abuse. As part of their platform they create lectures, study statistics, make displays, give workshops and educate others about their chosen subject. The next part involves extensive interviews. As part of those interviews the candidates must introduce themselves using their native language. They wear clothing they have made themselves, in the style of their people. They must demonstrate a talent or craft from their indigenous heritage. One of these princesses does beadwork. The other weaves baskets. The judges must be convinced of the candidate’s sincerity to represent their tribe in a flawless manner, both humble and proud, elegant and simple. They must speak their language and know their history. They must be proud of their heritage.
The lady spectator standing beside me while I was learning all this from the princesses, asked, “Isn’t there a beauty pageant? I mean princesses have to be pretty.” The two princesses looked at each other, then glanced to the ground, too awkward a question to answer. Then the junior miss answered. “I suppose,” she said, “if one can do all that is expected of her, then her looks won’t matter so much. It’s more about letting what’s inside come out, not so much about how she looks. Don’t you agree?”
Spoken like a true princess.