Toppenish beauty crowned in annual Indian pageant

Kaia John beat out 13 other competitors in the American Indian Beauty Contest on Friday on Main Street in Pendleton.

PENDLETON — Rodeo aficionados from the U.S. and New Zealand were called as judges for the iconic American Indian Beauty Pageant, held each year just prior to the Westward Ho! Parade the Friday of Round-Up week. Indian women from throughout the Pacific Northwest modeled heirloom dresses and regalia and answered questions about their ancestry and involvement in their tribal communities and the Round-Up.

Kaia John, whose Indian name, Xaamsali, means “hummingbird,” was chosen the winner out of 14 contestants. The 18-year-old Toppenish, Wash., resident is an enrolled member of the Umatilla Tribe and follows in the footsteps of her grandmother, Sharon (Hoptowit) John, who was the 1963 American Indian Beauty winner and a Happy Canyon princess. John wore her grandmother’s dress to honor her legacy.

A recent graduate of Zillah (Wash.) High School, John plans to attend Western Washington University to study nursing. She is the daughter of Sydney and Robin John.

Second place was awarded to Mary Harris of Pendleton, a 2015 Happy Canyon princess. She is the daughter of Stuart and Deborah Harris, and her ancestry includes Cayuse, Umatilla and the Wallowa-band Nimiipuu.

Gabriella Lewis of Spokane Valley, Wash., daughter of Joe and Kathy Lewis, was the third place winner. Lewis won the Junior Indian Beauty Pageant in 2010, and represented Happy Canyon as a princess in 2017. She is an enrolled member of the Nez Perce Tribe, with Nez Perce, Umatilla and Cayuse ancestry.

Fourth place winner was Glory Rose Sobotta of Lapwai, Idaho, the daughter of Bob and Angie Sobotta. She is a member of the Nez Perce Tribe.

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