Exit for latest Miss Cherokee ‘bittersweet’

08/26/2019 09:00 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Whitney Roach, the outgoing Miss Cherokee, speaks to tribal leaders in August about her year as an ambassador. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH — Whitney Roach, representing the tribe as Miss Cherokee for the past 12 months, recalls “an amazing year full of growth.”

“It’s been a blast to get to go around the United States and talk to Cherokee people,” she said. “It’s a year I’ll never forget. I hope to help the Cherokee Nation the rest of my life.”

Speaking to Cherokee Nation leaders at the Aug. 12 Tribal Council meeting, Roach said it was “bittersweet” to step down from a role that took the Northeastern State University student “as far east as you can go, and as far northwest as you can go,” Tribal Council Speaker Joe Byrd said.

“She’s had a chance to travel and represent us in a good way,” he added.

Miss Cherokees serve a year as goodwill ambassadors promoting tribal government, history, language and culture. They attend events throughout the CN, including community meetings, parades and school functions, and at times, appear at state and national events. College scholarships are given to Miss Cherokee, as well as the first and second runners-ups.

“You’ve always supported me, and you’ve always been at the events I’ve been at,” Roach told councilors. “It’s nice to see familiar faces everywhere I go.”

To the former principal and deputy chiefs, Bill John Baker and S. Joe Crittenden, she said, “You guys have always been like father figures to me. It’s really been a family here.”

Roach also thanked creators of the Cherokee Speaker Roll, a special book making the rounds to Cherokee communities for first-language speakers.

“My grandfather who passed away last year in March, he was a fluent speaker,” Roach said. “He had a brother that moved to Washington. That was my very last at-large meeting that I got to go to. He got to show up and sign the roll. I got to hold that paper while he signed it.”

The Cherokee Speaker Roll has been carried throughout the area, to the old Cherokee homelands of western North Carolina and to at-large communities. Speakers sign the book, which is made with special archival paper and ink, in anticipation of it lasting 1,000 years.

If not for her role as Miss Cherokee, Roach said, “I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see my uncle again and have a dear memory like that.”
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