Last year, Taylor Thomas made history when she became the first Native American from Idaho to win Miss Indian World. As the end of her term nears, she shared with her community the messages she spread under her title.
Thomas sums up the past year in nine words: “More than I ever dreamed of, or thought of.”
Not only was Thomas the first Idahoan to win, but also the first from the Shoshone-Bannock tribe. The Miss Indian World competition happens every year at the Gathering of Nations, the largest powwow in North America.
She said she went in with a specific goal: to make sisters.
“My main purpose to go was to meet a lot of other young women who are just as passionate about Indian country as myself,” Thomas said.
As Miss Indian World, Thomas developed a platform centered on “Indian Pride.” On her travels, she spread messages to empower women, empower youth and to empower Native American communities to work together to make a difference. Her platform echoes her desires as a Native American Youth.
“We need to believe and know that it’s not tomorrow or in the future that we’re making a difference,” Thomas said. “Today and now is when we can make that difference.”
Her desires are becoming the desires of many.
“If you step out of your comfort zone and you stand up for something, you can impact and change lives,” said Layha Spoonhunter, vice president for Idaho State University’s student group Native Americans United.
Many said her empowerment for women was greatly needed for the community, since there is a lack of voices for the cause.
Nathan Small, chairman of the Fort Hall Business Council and Thomas’ uncle, said, “Little girls– they’re going to know her, they’re going to recognize her all the time from here on out. A lot of them will probably remember the words that she said, about how women are the most important part of any Indian nation.”
Several people who attended Thomas’ presentation said her platform speaks to the kind of person she is. Her mother, Wendy Farmer, agrees.
“She’s not an ‘I’ person or ‘me,'” Farmer said. “It’s usually an ‘us’ or a ‘we,’ which is a really great quality for a tribal leader. I think she lives it, that is her.”
As far as what’s next for Thomas, she plans to finish up her last year at ISU and serve on the first youth subcommittee for the National Indian Gaming Association. Although she has plans, she remains open to anything.
“There’s just so many different paths I believe I can go and head toward,” she said.
Before winning this title, Thomas was the 50th Miss Shoshone-Bannock. When she won, she wanted to meet President Barack Obama and travel to Canada. She accomplished both of those as Miss Indian World.
The next Miss Indian World Competition will be this week at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.