Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

Red Lake Princesses Celebrate 50th Reunion

Have Luncheon, Participate in Parade and Powwow


The first Red Lake Princess Elaine Johnson in 2010

(Editor's note: This article may not have appeared on the former site,, so it was decided to run it in this issue since this will be the 51st year of Red Lake Princesses in August 2011.)

This kind of thing doesn’t happen to guys like me, but there I was at the Red Lake Seven Clans Event Center with a room full of Red Lake Princesses. I told them my Indian name was Makakii (frog) but none took the hint. It was late in August around powwow time. I had the distinct pleasure of being invited to dine with a room full of women celebrating the Red Lake Princesses 50th reunion luncheon.

I wasn’t the only man in the room though, there were husbands, and fathers, and sons, all proud of these women who so honorably represented Red Lake Nation over the past half century. Murphy Thomas was the emcee at the luncheon, Larry Stillday said the prayer, and songs were provided by Johnny Smith and the Red lake Singers. That was about it for the men though, the rest were former Red Lake Princesses, renewing old acquaintances as some had traveled far to come home for the celebration.

On one wall of the Event Center were photos of the women during the time of their reign. It was a popular display as those in attendance reflected on days gone by. It was interesting to see how the regalia had changed over the years, but the women? Not so much...of course.

Later the group would participate in the Red Lake Fair and Powwow parade. They would ride on a special float, and were honored guests at the powwow. The Princesses also had their own booth at the powwow where the archive photos would be exhibited in similar manner as they were now displayed at the Seven Clans Event Center.

All 50 princesses were present and accounted for said the first ever 1960 Red Lake Princess Elaine Johnson, with the exception of the late Willa Beaulieu, Red Lake Princess from 1972.

Delana Smith, Red Lake Princess in 98-99 was present. She did the Nation proud when she went on to compete for Miss Indian World and won that title in 2004. A dignified and impressive line of Red Lake princesses filled the room, all still representing Red Lake Nation in leadership and as role models.

Red Lake’s first Princess Elaine Johnson, explained that “back in 1959 some began talking about the princess idea, and then in 1960 in what may have been yet another “Red Lake First”, it was decided that Red Lake should have royalty as part of powwow”, said Johnson. “Later other tribes called us and asked how we did it, we were at the forefront of such things. We are proud to represent our great, nation. It is an honor”, she stated.

Johnson said she came home from school one day and was told she was selected. “At first we wore buckskin and feathers as regalia”, said Johnson. “When we were elected we got a back pack full of school supplies which was a pretty nice deal at the time”, explained Johnson.

Senior Princesses were chosen each year to represent Red Lake Nation in a variety of ways including powwows and other functions at Red Lake and other reservation’s events. Princesses were always are chosen at the August Red Lake Fair and powwow, and so now was the time to celebrate the 50 years with the luncheon.

Tharen Stillday is a former Red Lake Princess from 1976

The third Red Lake Princess from 1962 Sharon Fairbanks Columbus said “the contestants for princess compete each year and are chosen by judges, usually three or four”, said Columbus. “Some judges are former princesses, others are chosen from the audience”, she said. “The winner”, she went on, “is chosen using several criteria including audience applause, but also knowledge of language and culture”.

“There was a protocol, a code of conduct”, said 1964 Princess Lorena Hanson Cook. “A princess used no profanity, did not use drugs or alcohol, and must excel in school with a knowledge of language and culture” said Cook proudly. “We represent the nation, we must be role models”, she said.

“When I saw Sharon (Columbus) and Lorena (Cook) become Princess, that became a goal of mine”, said Cindy King. “I could see that they traveled, they were educated, they were visible and provided leadership, I wanted to be like them”, said King. Cindy King became the 10th princess and served in 1970-71.


Reader Comments(1)

mbarrett writes:

There was a comment made about who the first Red Lake Princess was, but it was placed in the CLASSIFIED section, where it was rejected. To the person that wrote this comment, you will have to use this format to make any comments. You will also be required to use your email address, but only staff members of RLNN will have access to this. It is for contacting purposes only. There was nothing wrong with the comment, just it wasn't done properly.


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