FORT HALL — Nearly triple-digit heat didn’t stop dozens of American Indian girls from dancing in heavy dresses, some made of leather and fur and all with intricate beading and designs, at the Delbert Farmer Dance Arbor on Friday afternoon during the Shoshone-Bannock Festival.
A major part of the festival is the Miss Shoshone-Bannock pageant and smaller dance competitions for girls as young as 3.
Lauren Littleman, a 3-year-old from Arizona and a member of the Navajo tribe, won the title of Tzi Tzi Princess. Her older sister, 12-year-old Monica Littleman, was named first attendant in the Little Princess category. Their mother, Kimberly Littleman, said she has been attending the Shoshone-Bannock Festival since she was Monica’s age.
Kimberly made her daughters’ intricate dresses herself, with help from her sister for the beadwork. She also taught her girls how to dance, and, perhaps more importantly, she said, what each dance means.
“Each dance has a different meaning,” Kimberly said. “Every category (of dance) has their own stories and their own teachings.”
The pageants and dance competitions held at the festival ensure that the rich history and traditions of native people are carried on.
Sequoia Pahvitse-Auck who won the title of Miss Shoshone-Bannock Friday night, said the pageant helps young girls better understand and appreciate their culture.
As part of the pageant, contestants must answer questions about their traditional attire, the history of the Shoshone-Bannock tribes and the Fort Bridger Treaty, which promised peace between the U.S. government and the Shoshone-Bannock tribes.
Additionally, the seven girls competing for the title had to demonstrate a traditional talent and dance for a panel of judges. Pahvitse-Auck’s talent was traditional healing.
“I wanted to be an example to the kids and the adults,” Pahvitse-Auck said. “Some people may not think we have any girls who would fit the criteria for Miss Sho-Ban. But I thought it was great this year that we had seven contestants that showed people we are role models.”
Pahvitse-Auck said another reason she wanted to participate in the pageant was because her mother was a former Miss Shoshone-Bannock.
Multiple generations of women holding the same title is not uncommon. Kimberly said she used to compete in festival dance competitions as well.
Additionally, Chenyl Anderson, a member of the Shoshone-Bannock tribes whose daughters Brelynn, 13 and Destiny, 12 were competing for the titles of Festival Princess and Little Princess respectively, said she taught her daughters how to dance and what to expect from the competition from experience as a former Festival Princess herself.
“I kind of made them (dance) at first,” Chenyl admitted. “But then they just stuck with it. They’re getting better every year, and I really enjoy seeing them out there.”
Kimberly said her daughters’ participation in the competitions inspired her to dance again, after taking a break for years.
“My kids wanted me to dance,” she said. “And they’re happy. I can see they’re happy that I’m back dancing.”
In addition to dancing, the girls competing for festival titles must give a short speech about themselves and their tribe, which Kimberly said she felt was an important lesson for her daughters.
“This shows them how important it is to know who you are,” she said. “We’re Navajos, so my kids have four clans. It’s important to know each and every clan and what it means and where you come from.”
The Shoshone-Bannock Festival ends Sunday with a final Grand Entry Pow Wow dance contest at 1 p.m.