Hybrid 2022 Gila River Royalty Pageant Held In Person, Streamed
The Gila River Indian Community held a unique hybrid event for this year’s Gila River Royalty Pageant on April 2. Contestants vying for the title of Miss Gila River and Jr. Miss Gila River, their families, judges and GRIC leadership convened in person at the District 4 Service Center while the rest of the Community could watch it on the Gila River Broadcasting Corp.’s Facebook page and television channels.
This was the first in-person pageant for Gila River Royalty since 2020, when Miss Gila River 2020-21 and 2022-23 Miss Indian Arizona Alyse Marrietta and Jr. Miss Gila River 2020-22 Sineca Jackson were crowned at the District 4 Service Center with 200 people in attendance. Both extended their reign for two years due to the pandemic.
This year, Kelsey Martinez of District 3 was crowned Miss Gila River 2022-23 and Eliana Rhodes was crowned Jr. Miss Gila River 2022-23.
“I’d like to thank everybody for allowing me to represent our Community these past two years,” Jackson said.“I just hope that I represented you all well.” For her farewell Jackson shared a social dance with Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis, Lt. Gov. Monica Antone and pageant judges.
“I am so proud of our Community members who have followed COVID safety guidelines and/or gotten vaccinated,” said Marrietta, who also hosted the pageant. “It is because all of you that we are able to gather here again and have events like this.”
COVID-19 precautions remained in place for all attendees to this year’s pageant. Contestants presented their platforms on stage in the gymnasium in front of judges while their families watched and supported them from the service center lobby.
The Judges panel included District 4 Council representative Regina Antone, former Jr. Miss Gila River 2015-16 Charisma Quiroz, Miss Indian Arizona First Attendant 2021-22 Skehg’ Hiosik Galindo, Miss Indigenous ASU 2021-22 Lourdes Pereira, and Candace Hamana (Hopi).
Each contestant showcased traditional and business attire and underwent interviews and impromptu questions with the judges.
All contestants must demonstrate knowledge of the Community, government, culture and history of the Akimel O’otham and Pee-Posh.
“One of the greatest honors as a Miss is to carry a platform during their reign,” Marietta said. “This is an opportunity to bring awareness to a topic or issue that they are passionate about.”
Jr. Miss Gila River 2022-23 Rhodes, daughter of Vincent Blackwater and Antonia Sanchez, competed under the platform of “mental and spiritual well-being.” She feels this topic is very important, especially to Indigenous people who face generational trauma.
“In my personal experience, reconnecting with my people spiritually and traditionally has helped me so much,” said Rhodes. “I am very excited to represent you all and see you all in the future.”
The new 2022-23 First Attendant to Jr. Miss Gila River is Caiden Lewis, District 4, daughter of Derek Lewis and the late Malorie Miguel. Lewis also presented her platform that focused on mental health.
“I can’t wait to work with you all in the future and we hope you all stay safe,” said Lewis.
Miss Gila River 2022-23, Martinez, is the daughter of Melanya Sue Pasqual and the late Lionel Martinez. Her platform is “implementing traditional teachings into our modern lifestyle.”
“Words can’t even express how I feel,” she said. “I look forward to representing my Community throughout this year.”
During her introduction, Martinez honored her late aunt and former Miss Gila River 1973, Pamela Pasqual. “As I reflect on the life of my dear aunt, I can’t help but smile and remember her determination and her unconditional love that she had for her family,” she said.
Miss Gila River First Attendant is Gabrielle Garcia, District 3. “I’m so glad and hope to enjoy this year with these ladies,” said Garcia.
“I look forward to what this year will bring us,” said Miss Gila River Second Attendant Cheyenne Johns, District 3.