US & Canada

Native American pageant honours missing and murdered women

Miss Indian World Pageant contestants Image copyright Miss Indian World / Facebook
Image caption The pageant will feature 18 contestants from tribes in the US and Canada

The Native American equivalent of Miss World will be dedicated this year to the deaths and disappearances of indigenous women, its organisers say.

The Miss Indian World Pageant is a part of one of the largest gatherings of Native American people in the US.

Organizers of the annual Gathering of Nations Powwow in New Mexico say they hope to raise awareness.

Some federal studies have shown Native American women are killed at more than 10 times the national average.

Around 3,000 singers and dancers, and 800 artisans are expected to attend the powwow, which began on Friday.

The pageant will feature 18 contestants from tribes in the US and Canada.

Image copyright Miss Indian World / Facebook
Image caption Last year Taylor Susan was crowned the 35th Miss Indian World

Held every year since 1984, the contest is meant to celebrate Native American culture and provide a platform for indigenous women to showcase their tribes and cultures.

Participants are judged on their public speaking and cultural presentations.

Melonie Mathews, whose family founded the Gathering of Nations Powwow, said this year's pageant is for the missing and murdered Native American women.

"We're just recognising and trying to bring more of a call of action toward the issue itself," Ms Mathews said in a statement to the Associated Press.

"Hopefully it will be the beginning to the end of this problem."

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Media caption'This is why people don't look for our murdered and missing'

The plight of the missing and murdered women has become a focus in the past year of state and federal legislation, prompting demonstrations and marches.

According to a report from the Urban Health Institute, a division of the Seattle Indian Health Board, there were 5,712 cases of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in 2016 alone.

But only 116 of these cases were logged in the Department of Justice's federal missing persons database.

Due to a scarcity of resources in the area, researchers say this number is likely an undercount.

Image copyright Miss Indian World / Facebook
Image caption Kristina Hyatt (R) was crowned Miss Indian World in 2015

The national awareness campaign will be promoted on a billboard near the powwow venue in Albuquerque.

Democratic representative Deb Haaland, the first Native American woman ever to be elected to the US Congress, welcomed the powwow to her native New Mexico, calling the event "one of the world's most recogniSed celebrations of indigenous culture."

"I'm incredibly grateful for Miss Indian World for making this a priority and to the Gathering of Nations for their leadership," Ms Haaland said.

The Gathering of Nations has grown significantly over the past three decades. From focusing on Native American singing and dancing, to a festival-like event featuring a parade, contemporary music and artisans market.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Deb Haaland, the first Native American woman ever to be elected to the US congress, welcomed the powwow to her home state of New Mexico

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