OHSWEKEN — The Iroquois Lodge opened its doors to allow 2016 Miss Indian World Contestant Chezney Martin to visit with the elders on Wednesday, April 6.
Martin said that it was “such a nice experience,” as she was asked to share some information about herself and her quest to the pageant, as well as answer impromptu questions and perform her traditional talent.
“I know a lot of our people — including myself — live in solid nuclear families, so we oftentimes lose our connection to the wisest and most patient people we have, the elders,” said Martin. “So, to be able to visit them and enter a space where they want to help me in my journey to the pageant was really important to me, especially since within my talent presentation I speak highly of learning from the elders,” she said.
Martin explained that not only are the elders incorporated in her talent presentation, but both the Haudenosaunee confederacy and the importance of decision making within the Haudenosaunee are as well.
“I wanted to make my presentation unique from all other Haudenosaunee contestants in the past and present, so I didn’t want to dance, or sing or tell a story — I wanted to leave an impact on the audience,” she said. “I chose to incorporate lacrosse as a form of decision making and I basically set the stage to be able to offer encouragement to those watching my presentation to always think of their people when they make decisions,” she said. “’Should I learn the language, should I learn the songs, should I learn the traditional beliefs,’ are all decisions that impact people and communities and I wanted to put a spotlight on how the Haudenosaunee have always understood the importance of putting the people first,” she said. “But most of all, I wanted the audience to feel the urgency in my presentation, and inspire them to act when it comes to decisions involving their culture and who they are. I can’t thank the Iroquois Lodge enough for allowing me to present as practice.”
Martin then explained that even though she will be leaving for the pageant in roughly 10 days, the support from the Iroquois Lodge was well appreciated.
“It’s really nice to be asked to do things in the community that offer practice for the pageant, but it’s even better when support is offered as well,” said Martin. “Some of the elders bought tickets and the co-ordinator that asked me to visit, Dawn Russel, took 30 tickets to sell herself. And on top of all of that, every single person there was kind and encouraging,” she said.
With help from family, friends and kind hearted individuals Martin has sold more than the minimum 500 Miss Indian World tickets.
“My first goal was to sell the minimum, but since we’ve reached that we’ve sold 700 tickets. So, now we’re aiming for one thousand,” she said. “But, last Friday there was a really kind elderly gentleman that drove all the way from Paris to my work at Two Row, to buy one hundred tickets himself,” she said. “I was in shock and I just kept saying ‘thank you,’ but as soon as he left I started to cry because it was probably one of the nicest surprises I’ve gotten in a long time,” she said. “It’s so wonderful to get support like this and to know that there are a lot of kind people in and around our community.”
Martin filled out all of the one hundred tickets for the gentleman and will be mailing the tickets numbers to him. She also hopes to revisit the Iroquois Lodge after the pageant to talk about how it went.
If you are interested in helping Martin’s quest, she has a donation page online at www.gofundme.com/chezney4miw