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Native American idol

Sharlene Irete

by Sharlene Irete

sirete@recordcourier.com

Nora Esparza said she ran for Miss Teen Washoe to do something beneficial for the Tribe.

“Having the crown is more than just waving my hand or dancing at powwows,” she said. “I want it to mean that I can be an idol for the next generation and make a difference for the betterment of the Washoe people.”

The 17-year-old Douglas High School junior was crowned Miss Teen Washoe of Nevada and California for 2010-11 during the Washoe picnic at Lampe Park on Aug. 14.

Nora is the daughter of Oscar and Miranda Esparza and lives in the Pine Nut Mountains.

“Most of my family has been Miss Teen Washoe, so I’m keeping it in the family,” said Nora, who had also served as Miss Teen Washoe in 2003-04 and 2008-09.

“I want to thank my family, (boyfriend) Daniel and the Tribe for allowing me to be able to represent us,” she said.

As Miss Teen Washoe, Nora makes presentations on domestic abuse, and attends tribal functions and powwows.

In April, Nora will attend one of the country’s biggest powwows, the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque N.M., where the young women chosen by their communities receive the same respect shown elders.

“I get to be in front with the eagle staff as part of the grand entry,” Nora said. “In the grand entry, the princesses are in front with the eagle staff and the American flag, behind the color guard.

“Along with the elders, the princesses are treated with respect because we’re role models. We’re chosen to set a good example. That’s why we’re in the front.”

Nora was also chosen as Miss Teen Washoe because of her native talents of making cradle boards and being a jingle-dress dancer.

“I make willow cradle boards. I have to go far to find the willow, because a lot of it is sprayed with pesticide,” she said. “The jingle-dress tells a story of healers.”

She said she likes P.E. and weight training at school, and is considering trying out for the girls’ softball team. Her career goals could include becoming a Nevada State Trooper or a registered nurse. And throughout the year, Nora will try to be a role model for young native people.

“I speak to teens telling them that they are unique, that there’s better things out there than doing drugs and alcohol,” she said. “It’s not the way to go.”

She said she tells her native peers to treat themselves with respect and to finish school.

“Better your lives and keep our traditions, songs and language, so that one day we can pass it on to our own children.”