Alitama Perkins Named Teen Miss Cherokee 2022-23
By SCOTT MCKIE BP
Alitama Perkins, a Deer Clan member from the Wolftown community, will represent the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) as Teen Miss Cherokee 2022-23. She won the title in a competition at the Chief Joyce Dugan Cultural Arts Center on the evening of Thursday, September 29.
Cameron Jackson, a Deer Clan member from the Wolftown community, was named first runner-up and Miss Congeniality, and Araceli Martinez-Arch was named second runner-up.
The three young women each spoke about a subject that fascinates them.
Perkins spoke of the historic grief and trauma of Native Americans. “Tonight I will educate our people about historical trauma and how it affects up to seven generations. Historical trauma is a collective and cumulative emotional wound through generations of traumatic events. These events do not affect a single person, but a community of people.Many people who have not directly experienced this trauma can feel the effects of it generations later.
“The historic trauma for our people has come from forced resettlement, land disposition, boarding schools, day schools, war, loss of spiritual practices and loss of language and culture. This can cause us to experience emotions of depression, fixation on trauma, sadness, anger, mood swings, and self-destructive behavior.
Perkins went on to say, “Intergenerational trauma is passed down through the DNA of the person who has been genetically altered after experiencing a traumatic event. To break this cycle, we need to start creating a loving and open community. We need to stop using drugs and alcohol in front of our children and seek help if you have an addiction or are experiencing explosive behaviors…please continue to help me and the future generations, to break this cycle.
Jackson spoke about rates of domestic violence among Native Americans — specifically violence against Native women. “Domestic violence occurs when violent or aggressive behavior occurs within the home, usually involving the abuse of a spouse or partner. Even their child can fall victim to these situations.
“Violence against Indigenous women has reached extraordinary levels on tribal lands. Statistics define the magnitude of the problem but do nothing to capture the experience of the epidemic. They tell part of the story but ignore the devastating effects of this violence on Indigenous survivors, families and communities.
She concluded, “I believe we all have a role to play in ending this epidemic and knowing that this information can help our communities raise awareness and begin to break the cycle. Indigenous people have the right to live free from abuse.
With a red handprint adorned in face paint, the symbol used to represent the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s Movement (MMIW), Araceli Martinez-Arch spoke out on the issue. “No matter what clan we come from, we must always remember that we are one as the Cherokee people, the main people…I will be a voice – a voice for missing and murdered indigenous women.
She spoke bravely about her own experience with a violent attack. “With the Cherokee SWAT team surrounding our home, my mother and I fought for our lives, becoming almost another statistic for murdered and missing Native women. This is why this topic is so important to me.
Martinez-Arch said cases have skyrocketed in Indian Country. “We now have nearly 8,000 reported cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls across Indian Country. 32 EBCI members, 10 of them on the Qualla border…I want to end this tragedy here and now. I will get up.
The girls also performed a traditional skill with Perkins performing a spoken word piece on Native empowerment and demonstrating how to shake shells for the Cherokee Stomp Dance, Jackson demonstrating how to make Stomp Dance shell shakers and Martinez-Arch performing the Cherokee Gathering Wood Dance.
Competitors also modeled traditional clothing during the contest.