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Tatiana Taanka Korthuis is 2024’s Miss Cama-i

Standing on stage wearing nasqurruns, qaspeqs, piluguuk, and other Yup’ik regalia, the four Miss Cama-i contestants – Marie Cup’aq Twitchell of Kasigluk, Lauren Kassatuq Konig of Bethel, Tatiana Taanka Korthuis of Bethel, and Lindsey Kiungaq Chief of Bethel – approached the final event of their marathon pageant day on March 16: the crowning of Miss Cama-i.

Kelsey Wallace, a former Miss Cama-i herself, emceed the ceremony.

“Miss Cama-i is really a role model who has the opportunity to travel within the Y-K Delta to represent the Yup’ik and Cup’ik people of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta,” Wallace explained before the announcement. She said that scoring this year was very close.

“You guys all were really incredible today. You spoke eloquently, you took care of one another, and you took care of others when you were at the Elders’ feed,” Wallace told the contestants. “So I just want to say quyana regardless of what happens. To me, you all did amazing. You are already role models for so many in this room and throughout our Y-K Delta.”

Throughout the day, the four contestants interviewed with judges, participated in a photo shoot, wrote an essay, served Elders at Cama-i’s Native Foods Dinner, and introduced themselves and their families to festival attendees, saying why they chose to participate in Miss Cama-i. Contestants must be between 17 and 30 years old by July 10 of the year of the competition, unmarried, not have dependents, and pledge sobriety.

“To all of the future Miss Cama-is out there, we see you and we love you and we lift you up,” Wallace said, “And you're already an incredible role model.”

At about 10:45 p.m., Wallace announced 22-year-old Tatiana Taanka Korthuis, of Bethel and Emmonak, as Miss Cama-i 2024, and crowned her with a red and gold nasqurrun, dance headdress, and a maroon sash. Traditionally, the nasqurrun and sash are presented by the previous year’s Miss Cama-i, but 2023’s winner wasn’t able to be at the crowning ceremony because of other conflicts.

“I'm very excited. I'm honored,” Korthuis said in an interview after being crowned. “I'd like to thank my family. I'd like to thank Kelsey for putting together and everybody who made this happen.”

Korthuis credited her family for her Miss Cama-i win.

“Every time the announcer, the emcee was announcing that the Miss Cama-i pageant was going on, they would nudge me and say ‘Tatiana, you should run, you should run.’ And as last night, I took the application. I slept on it and woke up early this morning. I was like, ‘You know, I'm going to,’ because why not?”

This year’s Miss Cama-i is a student at the University of Alaska Anchorage studying Environmental Science. She’s also been involved with the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP) since she was in sixth grade.

Korthuis told the crowd that she’s also an Arctic Youth Ambassador.

“My plan for the future is to finish my bachelor's degree and to continue to advocate and uplift our Yup’ik people, our Yup’ik youth across the state, country, and Arctic,” Korthuis said.

Marie Cup’aq Twitchell from Kasigluk was the first runner-up, who will step in if Miss Cama-i can’t fulfill her duties. In the public statement portion, Twitchell said her motivation for running for Miss Cama-i was to help preserve and celebrate Yup’ik language.

“Elders wouldn't want to see our native tongue end this way,” Twitchell said. “Another thing that I want – to teach others to speak our first Native language.”

Second runner-up was Lindsey Kiungaq Chief of Bethel and third runner-up was Lauren Kassatuq Konig from Bethel.

Wearing her Miss Cama-i nasqurrun crown and looking toward a year as the reigning Miss Cama-i, Korthuis said that she hopes to serve as an inspiration and a cheerleader for the youth of the Y-K Delta.

“With the Miss Cama-i title, I hope to continue to uplift and encourage young, [the] youth across the Y-K Delta, that anything is possible, you can do it, piyungauten, you can do it,” Korthuis said. “And that no matter what challenges you face, you can do it.”

As Miss Cama-i, Korthuis will have opportunities to travel around the state with that uplifting message, including representing the Y-K Delta at the World Eskimo Indian Olympics in July.

Sage Smiley is KYUK's news director.