July 20th, 2024

Blackfoot princess passing on her crown

By Steffanie Costigan - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on February 24, 2024.

Herald photo by Steffanie Costigan Naela Thunder Chief, current Miss Blackfoot Canada 2023-2024 Princess, shows off her regalia as a family member films her earlier this week in the foyer at Casa.

Miss Blackfoot Canada Princess is prepares to pass on the crown and title to her successor.

Indigenous girls will compete for the honour and title of Miss Blackfoot Canada Princess along with other titles today during the he International Peace Pow-wow and Festival hosted by Blackfoot Canadian Cultural Society.

Current Miss Blackfoot Canada 2023-2024 Princess, Naela Thunder Chief shared encouragement for the Indigenous girls competing.

“I’m prepared to give it up. But it’s not exactly the word ‘giving up.’ It’s passing it down and passing down the responsibility and the honour of it.

“And to know and to express and tell all the other girls on the day that whoever will be crowned, I’ll be very excited to even tell the girls who aren’t crowned to go out there to be there, to represent the Blackfoot people to the best of their ability,” said Thunder Chief in an interview Thursday.

Thunder Chief’s mother Shaneen Fox voiced the positive experiences Thunder Chief has had representing her community and the responsibility it is to be Miss Blackfoot Canada Princess.

“She has very much come through a lot of experiences that were very positive. A lot of people want to know more about the Blackfoot culture because of her title, because of the way that she represents the crown.

“Being a princess, especially today is so much more about representing the community that you come from, and how important that is to, to demonstrate your social skills, your educational abilities, your goals for the future, what you’d like to see happening in positive ways for your community,” said Shaneen.

Miss Blackfoot Canada Pageant Coordinator Andrea True Joy Fox, who has also been a coach to Thunder Chief, shared how much Thunder Chief has been an example and mentor to others.

“I’m very proud of her. She’s done many wonderful things since she was very, very young. She’s been an advocate for Indigenous people speaking on Truth and Reconciliation, also a mentor to other youth and children,” said Fox.

Thunder Chief has a long line of family members who have achieved varying Indigenous titles such as her aunt Andrea being Miss Blackfoot Canada in 2008, mother Shaneen Miss Sikóóhkotok Princess in 1992, and grandmother Mary Fox currently is Centennial Queen of Fort Macleod.

Thunder Chief has advice to the next Miss Blackfoot Canada Princess.

“Miss Blackfoot Canada, I would tell her to be confident, be outgoing, be out there.

“And to always speak up for what you believe in not of what somebody else thinks or what somebody else expects of you, but to also show yourself in a respectful way. And to show the show Blackfoot people how we live, how we still carry on our traditions,” she said.

Fox shared a special moment for her when she got the Miss Blackfoot Canada in 2008, how Shaneen came just in time with Thunder Chief after she was born to see her be crowned.

“She was born. And she made it just in time. Her mom had brought her – they came from the hospital, and she was there for my ceremony. When she was crowned last year, it would have been the 15th anniversary of that and it’s just so surreal, and she decided to compete for this special title. And she’s done some wonderful things with it,” said Fox.

On Feb. 10, Thunder Chief was invited by the Calgary Hitmen for the “Every Child Matters” game, where she helped drop the puck and also danced for everyone there.

“Naela has come through this experience so young, and it’s guiding her future toward her goals and her dreams and talking about having these very big conversations with her peers and young people, encouraging them as well to dream big and dream bigger for themselves, not hold themselves back,” said Shaneen.

Thunder Chief does much advocacy for missing Indigenous women, trying to spread the word that it is still happening. She said being Miss Blackfoot Canada Princess carries the responsibility to help educate people about truth and reconciliation.

“The Indigenous way of being, means a lot, should mean a lot to a princess. And should mean that whatever you do, always has to come from your heart, that if it comes from your heart, and you have to know what (truth and reconciliation) is to help other people, to explain to them to educate them on everything that’s going on in our world.

“Especially with the Indigenous population, it means taking those steps, moving forward, showing your best self and showing what your people as my people, the Blackfoot people, who we are, and our beautiful way of life,” said Thunder Chief.

The Pow-wow runs today and Sunday at the Enmax Centre. Doors open at 10 a.m.

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