TAHLEQUAH — LaNiece Belcher of Tahlequah captured the title of Jr. Miss Cherokee by playing the Cherokee hymn “Orphan Child” on the bassoon and delivering a passionate speech on the importance of music in school systems.
For the next year, Belcher will act as a goodwill ambassador for the tribe, promoting the government, language, history and traditions of the Cherokee people.
Belcher, 15, is the daughter of Win and Rhonda Belcher. She attends Tahlequah High School.
Ten teens competed in a cultural presentation, interview and overview of their platform for a panel of judges at the Tahlequah Armory Municipal Center.
During her reign as Jr. Miss Cherokee, Belcher hopes to start a grant program within the Cherokee Nation to assist Cherokee students with instrument costs, according to a media release.
In addition to the crown, Belcher also received Miss Congeniality and the academic and cultural presentation awards.
Cierra Fields, 14, of Fort Gibson was named first runner-up and won the essay and traditional dress award.
Second runner-up went to Deonna Toney, 16, of Sallisaw.
Other contestants include Megan Baker of Locust Grove, Elizabeth Burns of Claremore, Autumn Bays of Afton, Sarah Hicks of Sallisaw, Elizabeth Hummingbird of Stilwell, Danya Pigeon of Tahlequah and Tatianna Slover-Birdtail of Tahlequah.
Belcher was officially crownedpreceding Principal Chief Bill John Baker’s State of the Nation address.