TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA — Northeastern State University senior Ja-Li-Si Pittman, 21, is the new Miss Cherokee after being crowned Saturday, August 29, 2015, during a leadership competition at Cornerstone Fellowship Church in Tahlequah.
Pittman receives a $3,000 scholarship and for the next year will represent the Cherokee Nation as a goodwill ambassador to promote the government, history, language and culture of the Cherokee people.
“Serving as Miss Cherokee is a life-changing experience. It’s an opportunity to travel across Oklahoma and the United States representing the tribe, and visit with Cherokees of all ages and all walks of life,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “Miss Cherokee is truly an asset to the Cherokee Nation and an extremely important role model who exemplifies the best qualities of Cherokee youth.”
Pittman is the daughter of Pete and Ginny Pittman. She competed against three other young women for the crown. The Miss Cherokee Leadership Competition judged contestants on their use of the Cherokee language, cultural and platform presentations, and impromptu interviews.
“Being Miss Cherokee is nothing to take lightly. It’s such a high honor and means I need to continue to be a good role model and do the best I can to represent the tribe,” Pittman said. “I didn’t expect it and hated to cry, because when Chief Baker hugged me I soaked his shirt a little.”
Ja-Li-Si Pittman is named the 2015-16 Miss Cherokee during a competition Saturday in Tahlequah.
Pittman, of Tahlequah, is studying psychology with a minor in chemistry. She wants to pursue a career as a psychiatrist. She is currently the vice president of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Youth Council and former secretary of Native American Students Association. She also volunteers on mission trips each summer with her church and was an intern with Baptist Collegiate Ministry at NSU.
For her cultural presentation, Pittman composed a piano piece and sang Orphan Child in Cherokee. Her mother is bilingual and grew up in Nicut with Cherokee as her first language. Pittman’s platform tackled youth needing strong mentors in school.
“I’d like to use my platform to speak to students in rural schools about overcoming some of the issues they face, and I can’t think of a better way to serve my tribe,” she said.
Pittman’s first public event as Miss Cherokee will be Saturday’s State of the Nation Address at the 63rd Cherokee National Holiday in Tahlequah.
Miss Cherokee first runner-up was Jackie Eagle, of Gore, who earned a $2,000 scholarship. Second runner-up was Brooke Bailey, of Hulbert, who earned a $1,000 scholarship.
Judges for the Miss Cherokee Leadership Competition were Brenda Krouse Fitzgerald, Dana Hummingbird Noel, Rebecca Carey-Drywater and Cherokee artist Demos Glass, who designed this year’s crown.
Past Miss Cherokees have met with President Barack Obama, attended a White House Generation Indigenous Initiative for Native Youth, spoke at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and attended many events hosted by the tribe.