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Woman makes history as first Indigenous woman to win Miss Minnesota crown, with ambitious goals to make an impact

By Marielle Mohs

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    MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — History was made with the newly crowned Miss Minnesota on Friday in Eden Prairie, as 25-year-old Rachel Evangelisto was the first Indigenous woman to win the crown.

Evangelisto describes the moments before she found out she won.

“I was standing there shaking, just waiting for whatever was going to come next,” said Evangelisto, “And then, I think, I blacked out. As soon as they put this [crown] on my head, I just remember going like, ‘Stop, I need to appreciate this and what’s happening in my life right now.'”

Evangelisto is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which is Lakota Sioux Nation, bordering North and South Dakota.

She was one of two native women to make the top three this year. To her, pursing the title of Miss Minnesota was all about representation.

“I’m going to come right through and break all those barriers and say that I need to be authentic, I need to be truthful and just share my experiences,” Evangelisto said.

Evangelisto is showing her heritage in every way, including the jewelry she wears daily.

“I make all my own earrings,” Evangelisto said. “I make my own ribbon skirts, and I take a lot of pride in using my hands and being creative.”

She has been competing in pageants since she was 13 years old, winning the title of Miss Winona to earn her spot in the Miss Minnesota competition.

When she’s not showing off her skills in the Chinese Martial Arts technique of Praying Mantis Kung Fu, she’s working as a guardian of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

“I look out for the best interest of Native American youth that are in child protection and foster care cases,” Evangelisto said.

After her reigning title is over, she will pursue her degree at the Native American Law and Sovereignty Institute at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul.

“I’m so excited to be able to start my law school studies and to be a legal force, I feel, in Indian Country,” Evalgelisto said.

But first she plans to visit all 11 Native Nations in Minnesota and inspire the young girls who live there.

“Your strength is not defined by your wealth or whatever successes you have. It’s defined by your community and what you give back to the world,” Evangelisto said. “And I want to show people that if you have a dream you can do it.”

Evangelisto will compete for the title of Miss America in December.

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