This installment in the JI’s material culture month comes from Farina King of the Kinyaa’áanii (Towering House clan) of the Diné (Navajo). She is a second-year graduate student in the U.S. History Ph.D program at Arizona State University. She received her M.A. in African History from the University of Wisconsin and a B.A. from Brigham Young University with a double major in History and French Studies. King has written and presented about indigenous Mormon experiences in the twentieth century, drawing from interviews that she conducted for the LDS Native American Oral History Project at BYU. Her doctoral research traces the changes in Navajo educational experiences through the twentieth century. She was the last Miss Indian BYU crowned in 2006. King is also a dedicated wife and mother to two toddlers. A version of the following will appear in a special issue on Miss Indian pageants, forthcoming in the Journal of the West .
The Tribe of Many Feathers (TMF), the BYU Native American student organization, hosted the Miss Indian BYU pageant for twenty-three consecutive years until 1990. TMF restarted the pageant in 2001. I was the last crowned Miss Indian BYU in 2006, since the TMF Council cancelled the pageant again in 2007. I had the opportunity to interview several former Miss Indian BYUs about their experiences as title-holders and pageant contestants including Vickie Sanders Bird and Jordan Zendejas who I feature in this blog post. The Miss Indian BYU Pageant and its winners’ memories reveal the ways that Native American LDS youth engaged and transformed material culture in the effort to represent BYU Indian students.
2006 Pageant. Farina is on the left.
Dr. Janice White Clemmer, a Wasco-Shawnee-Delaware and the first “American Indian woman in the United States to earn two masters degrees and two doctoral degrees,” worked with the BYU Native American Studies and Multicultural programs when TMF invited her to judge for Miss Indian BYU pageants during the 1980s.  According to her, the pageant “[celebrated] young American Indian womanhood.”  She elaborated on the criteria that the judges used to evaluate Miss Indian BYU contestants: “How does she look in her regalia? How does she carry herself? How fluent is she about her tribal knowledge? [Miss Indian BYU has] LDS standards and demonstrates best of both worlds, of all worlds . . . someone who represented her tribe, other tribes, school, and gospel.”  The Miss Indian BYU Pageant typically consisted of the following parts: presentation of traditional regalia, traditional talent, modern talent, and question and answer. The ability to wear and describe traditional clothing demonstrated knowledge of the contestant’s tribe and people. For example, I remember wearing a biil (Navajo rug dress), moccasins, and a squash blossom necklace for the first part of the pageant in 2006. I explained that the squash blossom once belonged to shinálí ‘asdzáníígíí (my grandmother). Shibízhí (my aunt) had made the necklace for her using the sand-casting technique. I wore the moccasins of a Yébíchai (Yei Bi Chei ceremonial) dancer. The clothing represented our people and cultures, and so the judges wanted to see how we (as contestants) would understand and convey the connections between how we appeared and what we emblematized–indigenous identity in a LDS school context.
Vickie Bird, Miss Indian BYU, 1972
As Miss Indian BYU in 1972, Vickie Bird Sanders (Mandan-Hidatsa) enjoyed meeting with different groups to share her culture and serve as an ambassador. She recalls, “When I was chosen, I felt like it was a very special calling to be able to represent the population of all of the Native Americans and represent BYU. I did a lot of speaking. I was going to Boy Scout clubs, going to schools, going to women’s clubs, and performing for General Authorities.”  During one of her visits to an elementary school, she frightened a little girl who closed her eyes tightly to avoid looking at her traditional regalia. Sanders explained to the girl that the rabbit fur hanging on her long hair was not alive, and then the girl became excited to touch the fur and hugged her. She remembered, “That’s when I realized that I wanted to keep doing that, I wanted to keep going to the elementary schools, meeting with the little children and having them give me hugs and wanting to touch my rabbit skin.”  Sanders later became a schoolteacher and continued to present at some public schools. In her presentations, she first appears to the children in “everyday modern” clothing and then changes into her traditional dress in front of them while describing the cultural meaning of each clothing piece. She prepares her presentations this way to show and complicate the meanings of “a real live Indian.” 
Sanders also explained that Janie Thompson, the director of Lamanite Generation (a BYU student performance group), designated
TMF Ladies and Float
her as a “spokesperson” because of her title. “I always had a part in the show where I could express thoughts about BYU and where we were at that time wherever we were performing,” she added.  Phillip Smith (Navajo), a member of TMF during her reign, remembered seeing Sanders speak publicly to students. She impressed the BYU community with her personal story of reprimanding some relatives for wearing BYU icons and clothing in disrespectful atmospheres such as bars and clubs where alcohol was distributed. After witnessing the bereft of her people and family due to alcoholism, Sanders beseeched students to reject alcohol completely. 
During her service as Miss Indian BYU, AIM activists especially criticized Sanders and told her, “[You’re] Apple Indians, you’re red on the outside but white on the inside and you’re not really an Indian.” Sanders remembered, “So many of them took pride in ‘why don’t you wear something that identifies you as native? Why don’t you wear a feather in your hair’” She responded, “That to me is not what needs to set me apart from who I am. I don’t need to grow my hair long or wear it in braids or wear a feather or wear my Indian dress to show people that I’m proud of who I am.” 
In the twenty-first century, Miss Indian BYU still sought to shape popular images and material culture of American Indians. Miss Indian BYU 2004-2005, Jordan Zendejas (Omaha), visited public schools in her formal mainstream attire to relate better to children. Zendejas recounted,
My year, my focus was on education and the youth, and so I would educate them about Native American people and how we are different tribes and how were different then and how we are now. I like to emphasize the now part, because some people believe I wear my regalia every day to school, so I even wore a pant suit one time and they were like that is not what you wear, and I was like “yeah it is” that was my main issue to many schools. 
Adult supervisors at some schools complained that she did not wear feathers in her hair, hold a tomahawk, or portray other such stereotypical images of Indians. She explained, “There would be people who think, ‘You’re not Indian enough. You don’t look Indian enough. Do you take being Indian seriously’” She continued, “I remember this one class, I walked in there and to my horror all the students were wearing fake leather and fringe and putting on war paint and feathers in their hair . . . [one] mom was like you don’t look Indian. “Neither does your son, but you dressed him up.” I didn’t say that, but in my head I wanted to.” She added, “I wasn’t necessarily wearing my regalia every time that I went to schools just to show them how we were just normal people now, we don’t wear regalia all the time. . . . I had my own agenda set out, and I guess the teachers had in their mind their agenda of what they wanted me to do, so when I didn’t do it they would get mad.”  Zendejas used such encounters to teach people that she was a contemporary Native American and not a relic of the American past and fantasy of “the frontier.” Zendejas attended BYU Law School, aspiring to follow her father’s footsteps as a lawyer. Refusing to appear in traditional regalia for her presentations, Zendejas wanted to show that American Indians were a changing and developing population like peoples throughout the world.
Like the little girl who was afraid of Vickie Sanders’s rabbit fur in her hair, Zendejas confronted misconceptions about American Indians through her attire and presentation. Zendejas, similar to Miss Indian BYUs decades ago, was determined to dismantle prejudices and worked to alter material images of Native Americans and LDS indigenous people in particular.
 Janice White Clemmer, “Native American Studies: A Utah Perspective,” Wicazo Sa Review 2, no. 2 (Autumn 1986): 18.
 Janice White Clemmer, interview by author, Salt Lake City, Utah, March 26, 2007, recording in personal possession of author.
 Victoria Bird Sanders, interview by Farina King, Provo, Utah, March 27, 2008, transcript, LDS Native American Oral History Collection, Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library, Provo, Utah.
 Vickie Bird Sanders, interview by author, Provo, Utah, 24 March 2007, recording in personal possession of author.
 Sanders, interview, 2008.
 Phillip Smith, interview by author, Monument Valley, Utah, August 10, 2013.
 Sanders, interview, 2008.
 Jordan Zendejas, interview by author, Provo, Utah, March 24, 2007, recording in personal possession of author.