Miss Oglala Nation: Zintkala Cikala Win
Hundreds of residents of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota gathered together at the beginning of August for the 26th Annual Oglala Lakota Nation Powwow, Fair and Radio, a weekend-long celebration celebrating the rich history and traditions of the Lakota people.
Each year, as part of the powwow, young women compete for the crown of Miss Oglala Lakota Nation, Junior Miss Oglala Lakota Nation and Little Miss Oglala Lakota Nation. The pageant attracts ladies from across the reservation to participate in a series of competitions that test their knowledge in a variety of cultural-related topics.
I am honored and humbled to serve as the 2011-2012 Miss Oglala Lakota Nation. I would first like to introduce myself, my name is Alexandria Merdanian and my Lakota name is Zintkala Cikala Win (Little Bird Woman). I have attended Red Cloud Indian School for the past fourteen years from pre-school to my senior year. I reside in the community of Blacktail Deer Creek located in Oglala.
Both my parents: Russ & Tina Merdanian are both alumnus of Red Cloud Indian School and they have tried to incorporate the two worlds that I know today as a young Lakota woman. As my parents instilled the Lakota traditions for my brother and myself and I am the second generation working towards post secondary education, my journey begins through my service of others. I will be attending Creighton University, in Omaha, NE. I have been named this year’s recipients of the Red Cloud Indian School- Creighton University Scholarship by Creighton University, where I will begin classes this fall toward a degree in Political Science with a concentration in Sociology.
Perhaps the most important influence that has shaped the person I am today is my upbringing, oriented in my culture. My family has been an important source of support in all of the decisions I have made, and my families’ three basic tenets-good words, good deeds, and good thoughts-have been my guiding principles in life. Not only do I try to do things for others, but I always push myself to be the best that I can be in all aspects of my life. I saw early the doors and opportunities that a good education can open up; thus, I particularly tried hard to do well in school.
I am most thankful for the important work that is being doing in each of our respective districts and for the positive impact our culture has on everyone. It is critical in shaping our futures, and more specifically, our youth.
As a 2011 Red Cloud High School graduate, I have grown and developed into a responsible, young Oglala Lakota Woman. Steeped in my traditions and culture I know the Pine Ridge Reservations is a place where education has already begun to introduce change. Education, whether in our homes, communities, and within our schools, is at the heart of creating a brighter future.
When I use the word education I am using it in a context of not just education in our schools but the education in our culture. There is an old saying “Tell me and I'll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me, and I'll understand.” This saying touches my heart because as people we are taught early on by our relatives of life’s guiding principals. The primary concerns are the preservation of the roots of origin (common instruction -- how to live in harmony with creation) and languages. It is by Lakota language that we are identifying our “nations”, and not by our “race”. It is through the language that the spiritual traditions are maintained and continue the relationship with the creator. It is through our traditional teachings that the preservation of the original instruction is important for the future generations, so they are able to understand the importance of the core foundation the culture and way of life.
I know that education can help create the change needed to address the challenging trends on the reservation so that we are not faced with the same realities for the next 100 years. As Chief Red Cloud once stated in his petition for education “We do not want riches but we do want to train our children right”. As a daughter, sister, aunt, a granddaughter, and most importantly as a young Oglala Lakota woman, I am confident in the future of our People, knowing that we are tomorrow’s leaders.
Zintkala Cikala Win miye kšto. Ho hechetu we.