Kaylene Evans is Miss WEIO 2018
Nome’s Kaylene Iñuuraq Evans has been crowned Miss WEIO 2018 at the World Eskimo Indian Olympics in Fairbanks last weekend. She is the daughter of Bobby Evans and Kathleen Jaycox and is the first Nomeite to win the title since Marjorie Tahbone won in 2010. Tahbone went on to win Miss Indian World in 2011-2012.
The Miss WEIO pageant’s stated purpose is to promote culture, social games, skills, dances and traditions of Alaska, Greenland, Siberian, and Canadian Eskimos, the American and Alaskan Indians and Aleuts. The competition includes a talent presentation, a personal interview with the judges and an impromptu speech, and Native regalia.
“For my talent portion I talked about my journey of wellness which is grounded in the tradition that you carry on the spirit of your namesake. I spoke about my grandmother, Myrtle Wells of Kiana, who is also named Iñuuraq, and I sang a song she taught my mother, who taught me,” she said. The song, in Inupiaq, is “Praying For You.”
“My namesake Myrtle Wells, Iñuuraq, was a part of a generation that did not have the right and safety to practice their culture and language. Once I learned of my aana’s experience I was inspired to honor the privilege that I have today to embrace my indigenous identity. Due to our traditional belief that I carry the spirit of my namesake I believe by practicing our culture I am not only healing myself but also my grandmother’s spirit,” Kaylene said.
She also performed two Hawaiian chants because it was in Hawaii that she learned to embrace her cultural identity. She felt privileged and was honored to be able to take part in Hawaiian spiritual practices. She was invited to join a group there, which taught her those songs. “I was able to learn a lot from the Native Hawaiians,” she said. “Their community is very welcoming and shares so much knowledge. And we have so many values that align. I am very lucky to have found home there and a community.”
Kaylene studies at the University of Hawai’i Manoa. She has earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and a second one in ethnic studies. In the fall she will be headed back to Hawaii where she has been accepted for graduate school in the indigenous politics program. “I have performed a pilot research project with the Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana which is a grassroots organization that I’ve been involved with for about four years,” she said. “I was really inspired about how they’ve been successful in leading a movement for about 40 years now. And it’s still going strong. They liberated the island of Kaho’olawe, a very sacred island in the Hawaiian chain. The military was using it as a testing site for 50 years. They really awakened the Hawaiian consciousness that precipitated the Native Hawaiian cultural renaissance.”
“Although my primary research looked at their organizing efforts I’m also interested in tracing the connections between Alaska and Hawaii because there are so many similarities in regards to mobilizing an indigenous movement and how we’re able to support one another,” she said.
“I am an advocate for indigenous knowledge and conversations about historical trauma, as it is a shared experience between generations and communities across the state. Personally, this education served as a means of empowerment and inspired me to draw strength from our Native Alaskans cultures and values.”
This year there were five entrants in the Miss WEIO competition, fewer than in most years. All five were Inupiaq, which is also unusual. Included in the five was Miss ANB, Lisa Lynch. “It’s open to the whole state, very inclusive, you don’t need to have a title, but that was all had applied this year,” said Kaylene. “Usually there’s more representation throughout the state.”
Asked half in jest by the Nugget why there is no Mr. WEIO she laughed. “I actually proposed that at the meeting,” she said. “They are looking at other avenues of including men. I would like to start something similar, a cultural pageant in Nome for the younger generation.”
She credits former Miss WEIO and Miss Indian World Marjorie Tahbone with helping her to succeed. “She helped me prepare for Miss ANB and Miss WEIO and she was the one who did my Inuit tattoos which I got right before I graduated college. So she has been a prominent figure in my life who I look up to very much.”
Kaylene got the idea to enter the competition while studying in Hawaii. “I researched Miss WEIO as a cultural pageant when I was taking a gender and race in US society class. That was about three years ago. So I had always had my eye on it but it wasn’t until this summer that there was Miss ANB and I really enjoyed the experience and wanted to continue and try at the state level. I didn’t know that it was inclusive to non-title holders until about a week or two until the deadline. I’m glad that I double-checked on that. I’ve known women who’ve won the title who were doing really amazing things. Just to see how it can serve as a platform and an arena for empowering young indigenous women and cultivating a network. I think it’s really admirable.”
For her Native regalia, she borrowed a parky from Kiana, where her mother and aana are from. The parky was made for Lucy Jackson, a relative of her mother. The wolf and wolverine ruff was made by Amelia Hecker of Kiana and the parky itself by Dora Jackson Pfeiffer. It is muskrat and beaver and the kupaks were made by Eva Baldwin. “All three women have passed on so it’s a really treasured item,” Kaylene said.
Mary Lou Sours of Kotzebue made her mukluks, which belong to her mother. They are made with hard-bottom ugruk and have sea otter trim. They are beaded and her mother made her own kupaks. Her mittens were loaned by her stepmother Sarah Evans and made by Annie Weyiouanna of Shishmaref. They are sealskin with black beaver trim. Siikauraq Johnson made her sea otter headband.
“What is nice is WEIO doesn’t judge on your regalia because they understand that people don’t always have their own,” she said. “It wasn’t a judged part but we were encouraged to wear our regalia at certain events. In our personal interview we were asked to talk about our regalia, so I think that draws into the traditional knowledge and we can honor all the people who put all the hard work into making it.”
Kaylene provided information about her family. “My parents include my mother, Kathleen Jaycox of Kiana, my step father, Scott Kent from Michigan, my father Robert “Bobby” Evans of Nome and step mother, Kayleen Fayer-Evans from Togiak. With two sets of parents, I am blessed with family across the state and in the Lower 48. My maternal grandparents are the late Myrtle Wells from Kiana and Dwight Jaycox from California, as well as a step-grandmother Joan Miron in Michigan. My paternal grandparents are Laura Sockpick Evans of Shishmaref and the late Bob Evans from Minnesota, and as well as my step grandmother, Esther Fayer from Togiak.”
“I would like to thank the people of Nome and NANA and Bering Straits and the Bristol Bay regions for all their mentorship, all their support, everything they have taught me. It certainly takes a village to raise a child and I am the product of all the generosity and the guidance of all the loved ones who have touched my life.”
Next April Kaylene will travel to Arizona for the Miss Indian World Pageant.