Student supports her culture while continuing her education
Representing an entire set of cultures can be a
daunting task, especially when balancing travel time with homework and research
projects. But Jaymee Moore, the recently-selected Miss Indian Arizona, has been
taking the challenge in stride.
Moore, a recent graduate who majored in applied
indigenous studies and political sciences, grew up in Parker, Arizona, on the
Colorado River Indian Reservation. She chose Northern Arizona University (NAU) because
it was close to home and yet still provided a different environment than she
grew up in. Moore says her family stressed the importance of education at a
young age, and following in the footsteps of her grandmother, she’s the second
member of her family to attend NAU.
Moore says growing up in a tight-knit community
taught her not only the importance of cultural heritage, but the culture’s
future prosperity and growth. She took that knowledge when applying for the
Miss Indian Arizona Pageant, an event sponsored by the Miss Indian Arizona
Association that awards the winner with a $4,000 scholarship.
The competition allows for only one competitor
from each tribal community. Moore knew that other participants may focus on
their own cultural backgrounds and felt that emphasizing the importance of what
the future holds could set her apart from her peers. Her future goals include
attending graduate school and working for or running her own business in order
to give back to her community.
“I recognized that I could express my culture,
but could also utilize my education and use it to be able to run my own
organization someday,” Moore says. “That became my key concept. I knew that I could do more than just sing,
speak, and dance. I could actually help the Miss Indian Arizona Association
grow through my work within each tribal community.”
Though she had to write an essay and give an oral presentation outlining her long-term goals and what she could bring as student ambassador to tribes around the state, Moore was also required to display a cultural and modern talent that best embodied her outlook. She decided to sing a traditional Native American song before playing “Amazing Grace” on her violin. Moore ended up relating both types of music to their relationship with different religious beliefs.
Moore says she knew almost immediately what she wants to do post-graduation, and that her studies played a big part in her own cultural understanding.
“My first semester, I took AIS 202 (Roots of Federal American Indian Policy), a class that details the federal roots of American Indian law,” Moore says. “I knew that this is what I need to be doing; this is where my education and my focus should be. I could take what I learned, and apply it to my community. Political science came naturally after.”
Since being selected Miss Indian Arizona, Moore has appeared at a variety of events held at various reservations around the state. These include stints as a keynote speaker and brief appearances on local news stations. Despite being a full-time student, Moore has travelled throughout Arizona on a regular basis since receiving the award in October.
Moore says balancing time between her duties as Miss Indian Arizona and a student has taken some getting used to, especially with her involvement in other extracurricular activities, which include being a founding member of the Connecting Higher Education Indigenously Club and serving briefly as Miss Indian NAU. With her culturally rich background, pursuits in education, and connectivity to the community, Moore is surely well fit to start the next chapter in her life.