Last week, Fairbanks hosted the annual World Eskimo Indian Olympics. The four-day event showcases cultural practices and traditions of Inuit, Iñupiaq, Yup’ik and other circumpolar Indigenous communities. Also, as part of the festivities, young women from across the region competed for the title of Miss World Eskimo Indian Olympics, or Miss WEIO.
And this year’s winner was 18-year-old Kaliksuna Autumn Madison of Kotzebue. Madison was crowned Miss Arctic Circle earlier this month during Kotzebue’s Fourth of July festivities.
As part of the WEIO pageant, Madison showcased her traditional Iñupiaq dancing, while drummers played along.
In an interview with KOTZ before competing, Madison said she identifies strongly with many Iñupiaq values, especially hard work.
“Because something my dad always instilled in me is that you can’t get what you want and need unless you work for it,” Madison said. “Nothing comes easy and you have to do things for yourself and work hard to get where you need to be.”
Though Madison highlights her own personal hard work, she said another strength of her Northwest Arctic home is that the people are very tight-knit.
“All our communities are so close-knit. It’s kind of like we’re one big community,” she said. “Everyone comes together in the time of need and everyone is more than willing to help each other out and to share and even share the things they catch in their subsistence.”
In addition to Miss WEIO, Madison was also named Most Photogenic and Miss Congeniality. She plans to attend the University of Alaska Anchorage this fall with hopes of earning a nursing degree and returning to her region to work in health care.
As Miss WEIO, Madison won a $3,000 scholarship and will hold the title for a year.
The first runner-up for Miss WEIO was Laura Ekada of Nulato, who was also named Best Public Speaker. Second runner-up went to Ashley Luke of Healy Lake, who also won Most Traditional.