Miss Minnesota wants to use platform for Native issues
MINNESOTA (KVRR) – Twenty-five-year-old Rachel Evangelisto is the first Indigenous woman to wear the Miss Minnesota crown and is speaking out about the racism she faced while growing up.
“It’s a historical moment. People keep messaging me, it’s just the sweetest things, that they feel seen. That they finally feel like they have somebody to look up to and I don’t think anybody in the world could have prepared me for what that was gonna feel like,” Evangelisto said.
A member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Evangelisto says it was difficult growing up in South Dakota dealing with racism from peers and an identity crisis where she felt ashamed of her heritage.
“There’s a very beautiful Native American community out there. So, I lived actually right next to the Black Hills which is very sacred to Indigenous people. I will say living next to not-so-great Native American supporters really influenced me as a kid, there was a lot of a negative narrative,” Evangelisto said.
When it comes to Natives, she says the United States education system focuses on bows, arrows and hunting animals but her experience is more than that.
“I’ve already kind of gotten that pushback of ‘Oh, she looks white, what do you mean she’s Native?’ So, just kind of combating what that stereotype looks like. I mean, you can be blonde hair and blue eyed and be Indigenous. I’ve seen that many, many times. You don’t have to look a certain way to be Indigenous,” Evangelisto said.
She wants to celebrate her win with other Natives and give back to her community before participating in Miss America.
“I want to be the first Miss Minnesota to visit all 11 tribal nations. I’ve already been to every single one as a worker and as a legal professional but I wanna go back with this crown and this sash and meet as many kids and adults and people and show them, share with them in this joy and in this journey,” Evangelisto said.
Evangelisto was awarded over $24,000 in scholarship money and plans to study Tribal Law at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul.