The first time Danielle Ta’Sheena Finn competed in a pageant, it was the tribal equivalent of Miss Universe.

Any woman from any tribe in the world can apply to compete for the title of Miss Indian World, one of the most prestigious honors in the Native community.

"I wanted to do Miss Indian World because no one ever comes from my tribe, ever. ... Why haven’t we been represented before?" Finn said. She is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, whose Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North and South Dakota is the fifth-largest reservation in the U.S.

She applied and for two months practiced song, dance and storytelling and answered her family's practice interview questions. Unlike other pageants, contestants are judged on personality and cultural knowledge, not appearance.

"One of the biggest things she said was, ‘It’s not my title, it’s not my crown — it’s the people’s,’ " Finn's mother said. "I thought that was so amazing. That was so selfless of her to say that."

"I really want to inspire people to go after their dreams," Finn said. "Even if it takes twice, like me."

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"To have her be the voice not only by being a proud, vivacious, intelligent Native woman who will become a lawyer but also being Miss Indian World is just spectacular."

After graduation and after her Miss Indian World duties are done, Finn wants to return home to serve her tribe and, eventually, possibly the nation.

"In the bigger sense, it means she’s on the right path," her mother said. "She’s got a good voice for the people and she's smart, sees a long distance. We are really proud of her. I think the whole tribe is proud of her."

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