Meet Faith Long: Miss Cherokee 20177.16.2018
(Photo of Faith Long by Madison Hye)
If you’ve attended any major cultural events in Cherokee, NC, such as the Powwow or Cherokee Voices Festival, it’s likely you’ve been in the presence of Miss Cherokee. “My title is Goodwill Ambassador so I travel and represent the tribe, along Council or outside of Council, and I promote good will for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians,” says Faith Long, Miss Cherokee 2017.
For the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the title of Miss Cherokee is bestowed upon an enrolled female member between the ages of 18 and 25 who has demonstrated leadership in her community and a strong commitment to upholding the values and preserving the culture of Cherokee people. Although Faith still has a busy summer ahead of her, we got the chance to check in with her and learn more about her interests and hopes for the future.
The Empowerment of Young Minds
At 19 years old, Faith is a rising junior at Carson-Newman University, studying business management. Her family has deep roots in Cherokee. Her mother is Sheila Cole-Conner of the Towstring community and her late father Ronnie Long was of the Big-Y community. The royalty competitions take place on evenings at the annual Cherokee Indian Fair in October. Her family was hugely supportive in her running for Miss Cherokee.
There were three participants in the Miss Cherokee competition. In addition to Miss Cherokee, three other titles are awarded to outstanding women in younger age groups: Teen Miss Cherokee, Junior Miss Cherokee, and Little Miss Cherokee. These 2017-2018 honors were given to Raylen Bark, Dvdaya Swimmer, and Araceli Martinez-Arch, respectively. (Pictured here from L to R: Dvdaya, Faith, Raylen, and Araceli).
“There are pageants that we go through, and that is how you win the crown,” says Faith. “You're judged by appearance, traditional wear, traditional talent, formal wear, and a platform—mine is youth empowerment.” Faith says that when she was growing up and into her late teenage years, she felt very supported by her environment. “I want to give back to my community so I work closely with the Cherokee Youth Council. We do a lot of things together… I am basically like a college student mentor to them… They have someone they can relate to and can talk to…”
Faith’s responsibilities include attending events near and far. “I've been to Washington, DC, twice. I've been to Albuquerque, New Mexico. I've been to Tahlequah, Oklahoma, I've been to Lynchburg, Virginia. I'm getting ready to go to San Diego and accept an award and then I'll turn right around and go to Choctaw, Mississippi, for their fair. I’m going back to Oklahoma in September and I have a couple of upcoming events in Tennessee.” Faith says it’s important that she attend these events to help people understand more about the Cherokee culture. “I'm really just there to answer any questions and clear up any confusions. Because there are still a lot of people that don't know what Cherokee is.”
A few weeks ago, a Boy Scouts leader in Virginia requested that Faith visit with his troop and teach them about Cherokee culture. “I got to teach them games from Cherokee. I tried to keep it interactive and fun for them because kids don't want to just get a history lesson, they want to be doing stuff. Especially young boys in third grade.”
The Endurance of the Cherokee People
In April, at the fifth annual Cherokee Days festival at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., Faith got the chance to meet and become close with Miss Cherokee of Cherokee Nation. The event featured the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes—Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. “A lot of different people got to ask questions and we got to see a bunch of vendors, and we worked with Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. It was really, really fun.”
When Faith gets a few minutes to talk with people who are familiar with Cherokee culture, she stresses, “We are still here,” explaining that “the Cherokee people are still here, we're still alive, we're still prominent. Even if we're in a small community, we still reach across the nation.” She adds, “I believe, personally, that the Cherokee people are one of the most resilient tribes in the United States—to go what my ancestors went through and to still try and better the community instead of giving up.”
Kananesgi Fashion Show
This summer, in addition to taking summer classes in statistics, Faith has an internship with the Sequoyah Fund. One big project she is working on is supporting the Kananesgi Fashion Show. This event showcases traditional and contemporary designs in clothing. Faith is helping sew for the show and may model clothing for Sew Tsalagi, a local clothing store owned by Nancy and Johnnie Ruth Maney, who created all of Faith’s clothing for the Miss Cherokee pageant.
“It's really cool to see the connection between older women and men who know how to sew and these young kids… A lot of the fabric is having to be done on the computer, and so just that talking and teaching and learning from generation to generation is what's really cool about this fashion show.”
Kananesgi Fashion Show - August 25, from 5–8 p.m. at The Chief Dugan Cultural Center Gallery/Lobby, 86 Elk Crossing Lane in Cherokee. Free and open to the public.
Folkmoot 2018 - As a role model in her community, Faith is participating in Folkmoot 2018, an international folk festival across several locations in Western North Carolina. EBCI designated ambassadors (including Faith, Amorie, Raylen, and Dvdaya) are pairing up with a visiting dance troupe to teach them about Cherokee tradition. More info here on Cherokee Ambassadors Day on July 24.
Cherokee Indian Fair - At this year’s Cherokee Indian Fair, set for October 2–6, the crowns will go to a new group of talented individuals. Faith will be present at the event to congratulate the new Miss Cherokee.
Miss Cherokee is available for appearances - Keep up with Miss Cherokee’s appearances and events through the Facebook page. Faith loves sharing her culture with others as Goodwill Ambassador. Want to request an appearance by Miss Cherokee? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.