Gallup, N.M. (KKOB) — A nearly 100-year-old tradition is taking place this week in Gallup, New Mexico: The Crowning of the 2022 Gallup Inter-Tribal Ceremonial Queen. In 2021, Amber Ballenger won the Ceremonial pageant, taking on Queen duties for one year. But this pageant is not like some you may have seen televised. Instead of focusing on a woman’s outward appearance, the Inter-Tribal Pageant focuses on cultural knowledge. Native American and Indigenous women from across the southwest get to showcase the skills and talents passed down from their grandparents and families on the main stage. “It’s so inspiring and encouraging,” says Ballenger, “to see so many young people working to preserve our culture and to support each other in this way.”
The Queen spends her reign representing her people at events across the region. She also speaks at schools and universities about her chosen platform. “I love teaching and inspiring them to learn new things. And I love mother earth, and spending time in nature,” Ballenger said. She used these two passions to create her platform, helping to inspire indigenous children to take time away from their screens and spend time outside. “Finding what you like to do outside looks different for everyone,” she says, “it could be harvesting plants, or being active, or it could just be spending time looking up at the sky and noticing what birds are in your area.”
As her reign comes to an end, Ballenger tells News Radio KKOB, the experience of passing the torch is bittersweet. She is grateful for the opportunities she has had to speak to children across the southwest, and is excited to see what the next queen will choose as her platform. She also says she hopes visitors to the Gallup Ceremonial will use the opportunity to learn about new cultures, bridging the gap that can sometimes make people from different backgrounds feel like there is a distance between them.