For the first time in its history, the Miss Crow Nation pageant was held in Billings Sunday evening, and Aspen Real Bird took the crown.
"I feel very honored and ecstatic," Real Bird said. "I've always wanted this my whole life. and now that it is here I have no words to say what I'm feeling."
Miss Crow Nation is chosen based on academics and the ability to speak the Crow language. The title comes with some responsibilities.
“I will be representing my tribe at various powwows around the nation, talking to the younger generation," Real Bird said. "I will be spreading the message of being drug and alcohol free to the generation my age and what the importance of that is.”
Girls aged 14-18 could compete for the title of Miss Crow Nation. Miss Crow Nation Jr. and Tiny Tott were also crowned. As well, royalty from the 8 districts of the Crow Reservation were also chosen.
The pageant was held in Billings this year with the hope to strengthen a growing partnership in tourism between the Crow Tribe and the City of Billings.
Crow Tribe Chairman A.J. Not Afraid spoke to budding economic partnership.
"We're bringing the pageant to Billings this year because not only commerce but tourism and other venues that help both on and off the reservation economically and socially," Not Afraid said. "This is kind of the bridge between, you could say our brother cities up here in Billings, Hardin, Crow, Pryor, and in the surrounding area."
Billings Mayor Bill Cole was in attendance at the pageant.
"It was a lot of fun. I felt so welcome," Cole said. "It is a tremendous honor because we have this close economic relationship with the Crow Nation. They bring tens of millions of dollars into Billings and Billings is critically important to the economic health of the Crow Nation."
Miss Crow Nation serves as a role model for the youth. Not Afraid said a positive voice is needed to lift Native women.
“The Indian women are coming together to promote and show good social and moral lifestyles," Not Afraid. "It’s a big need in indian country so we need to lift up our women. That way we know that they are loved. We know that they are taken care of. We know that they are honored.”
Not Afraid also invited Billings and the surrounding communities to attend the 102nd annual Crow Fair coming up in August 2020. There you can see the royalty participate in Crow cultural traditions.