Evita Walcott crowned Miss Amerindian Heritage By Samantha Alleyne
Stabroek News
October 2, 2001

Twenty-year-old, Evita Walcott was on Sunday night crowned the first ever Miss Amerindian Heritage queen at the National Cultural Centre.

Walcott, who represented Region Two and hails from Wakapoa, copped the coveted crown keenly competed for by nine other delegates from the other administrative regions.

All winners: Twenty-year-old Evita Walcott was crowned Miss Amerindian Heritage on Sunday night. In this photograph Walcott, sitting is flanked by (from left to right), Rovina Charles, fourth runner-up, Veron Henry, first runner-up, Dennies Rodrigues, second-runner-up and Ingrid Devain, third runner-up. (Lawrence Fanfair photo)

Nineteen-year-old, Veron Henry of Region Seven was adjudged the first runner-up, while Dennies Rodrigues of Region Nine, Ingrid Devain of Region Six and Rovina Charles representing Region Five were given the second, third and fourth runner-up positions respectively. The other five young women who contested the pageant were Nancia Yahya of Region One, Michelle Barker of Region Three, Gillian Dundass of Region Four, Nickesha Leacock of Region Eight and Clair Jonas of Region Ten.

The queen, who is a trained teacher at Charity Secondary School where she teaches Integrated Science and English A and B, said yesterday that she was not surprised that she was crowned the queen as she was very confident.

Walcott said that during her reign she would work towards improving the self esteem of her fellow Amerindian young women. She won her self a whopping $100,000 and a six-month computer programme at Global Technology.

Sunday's night pageant was the first ever national Amerindian Heritage pageant in the country and it was organised by the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs.

The night was filled with a rich mixture of Amerindian culture and had by far the largest attendance to any pageant held in recent times. The Cultural Centre?s stage was transformed into a replica of the rainforest completed with lianas, macaws and undergrowth while the backdrop depicted different parts of the interior.

The crowd was also well behaved, unlike past pageants, and was very supportive of all the contestants who proudly represented their respective regions. But Charles from Region Five, even though she stopped short of copping the crown was the crowd's favourite because of her versatile stage performance.

The night's event begun promptly at 8:00 pm. However, the queen was never crowned until 12:45 am by the reigning Miss Guyana, Olive Gopaul. She was sashed by President Bharrat Jagdeo.

The contestants were judged in four categories: introduction, ten points; talent, 25 points; traditional wear, 25 points and intelligence 40 points, after which the five finalists were chosen. They were asked a final question which carried 50 points.

The girls wore matching yellow knee-length dresses during the introduction and some of them, Walcott, Dundass, Devain, Henry and Rodrigues, first introduced themselves in their tribal dialect and then in English. They next performed their talent pieces and Walcott shone with a self-composed calypso entitled "Don't think we stupid", which spoke about the Amerindian way of life being laughed at. However, as the song said Amerindians have moved up and become professionals in different fields, but they have not lost their culture.

Charles sang an Arawak cassava song for this segment in her tribe's dialect and although the sound system went dead halfway through the song, the brave contestant continued her song and was fully supported by the audience. Most of the other contestants performed songs, dances or poems except for Devain who did an interpretive piece on the medicine man or woman.

There was also a evening wear segment, which was not judged, but the girls all appeared elegantly dressed in beautiful evening gowns.

During the traditional segment, the girls wore mostly two-piece outfits colourfully decorated. Walcott was stunningly attired in a two-piece cream and brown outfit made of Jaguar skin. The skirt was completed with colourful tibisiri and her armband and necklace were also made of tibisiri and colourful beads. She wore matching slippers and her headpiece was beautifully decorated with feathers.

Henry was dressed in a two-piece colourful outfit made of feathers with matching headwear. The outfit was also decorated with beads.

Rodrigues was also dressed in a two-piece outfit which was said to made of materials that are grown in the savannahs and included tibisiri and beads. She also wore a headpiece and beautiful strapped sandals.

Devain wore a colourful tibisiri outfit which was decorated with cat-eye beads and spun cotton. Her headpiece was said to have depicted the nine Amerindian tribes.

In this segment Charles was surely the favourite. Dressed in her two-piece outfit of a tibisiri bra-like top and a skirt made of banana leaves the young woman also came on stage armed with her cutlass, fishing rod and arrow and bow. During her appearance she did a stage performance of catching fish with the arrow and bow and fishing rod. She then apparently cooked the fish and had a meal of roast fish and cassava bread with some piwari in a calabash all of which she had in a bag slung over her shoulders.

After the final five were chosen they were asked one final question which was 'If you became the Minister of Amerindian Affairs, what are some of the Amerindian issues you would address as top priorities?'

Walcott named the exploitation of Amerindian girls as a to priority and explained that this was very prevalent in her region where girls were forced to work in bars and were not treated with respect. She said she would also address the hinterland student programme and the Amerindian land title issue. The other four contestants focused mainly on education and equal treatment for Amerindians.

During the night's proceedings, which was chaired by Michelle Abrams and Laxhmi Kallicharran, the audience was entertained by the Hinterland Students, the Sand Creek Group, Mayann Chung, Vivian Jordon (Mighty VJ), Graham Atkinson and the Couchman family in song, poems and dances.

The pageant was judged by Erika Baharally, a teacher at the Cummings Lodge Secondary School; Hubert Wong; Dr George Norton; Managing Director of Shell Beach, Annette Arjune; and Christine Lowe, a teacher at the Head Start Nursery School.

The pageant brought down the curtains on Amerindian Heritage Month.