First alternate Robin Routh, Chief Phyliss J. Anderson, 2013-2014 Choctaw Indian Princess Lanena Grace John and second alternate Onnahinli Denson.
First alternate Robin Routh, Chief Phyliss J. Anderson, 2013-2014 Choctaw Indian Princess Lanena Grace John and second alternate Onnahinli Denson.
Lanena Grace John, 18, was crowned the 2013-14 Princess last week during the opening day of the Choctaw Indian Fair.

She will serve as the Tribe's goodwill ambassador for the next year.

Miss John is the daughter of Dawnena and Shaunrey Jefferson of the Pearl River community.

First alternate was Robin Marie Routh and second alternate was Onnahinli Deas Denson.

Miss Routh, 16, is the daughter of Maria Farmer and Robert Routh of the Pearl River community. Miss Denson, 18, is the daughter of Holly Denson of the Standing Pine community.

Miss Denson also won the written essay award.

Chosen as Miss Congeniality was Mariah Lewis, 18, daughter of Annette Lewis and Barry Jim Jr. of the Pearl River community.

Miss Photogenic was Emily Shoemake, 17, daughter of Gregory and Tracy Shoemake of Conehatta community.

Miss John was crowned by outgoing princess, Shaye Mackinzie Scott.

Choctaw culture, including traditional basket weaving and bead work, was highlighted last week during the 64th annual fair, which featured traditional foods such as fry bread, social dancers and the World Series of stickball among other attractions. (See related story, page 1B)

At the arts and crafts tent, 27-year veteran Eleanor Chickaway carefully demonstrated how a traditional Choctaw Indian basket is weaved by hand.

"When I was young, I watched my grandmothers make baskets," Chickaway said. "I tried to get them to teach me, but they told me that I was too young."

When she was older her mother taught her to weave Choctaw baskets which she continues to do today, showcasing her talent each year at the fair.

Chickaway said the baskets are made for different reasons. Some are used to display flowers or to collect eggs. They are also popular utilized as picnic baskets.

Adam Bell of Memphis, Tenn., assisted at his father's souvenir booth at the fair where two-foot blow guns caught the eye of most visitors.

Bell said the blow guns, many used to hunt with, were originally 6-8 feet long.

Hunters would blow a dart from the gun to kill small game and birds, he said.

Handmade rabbit sticks, which resemble wooden hammers, were another popular souvenir at Bell's booth.

At other arts and crafts booths, colorful mosaics of traditional Choctaw beadwork attracted fairgoers.

Seventy-two year old Helen Thompson has been making traditional beadwork since her early 20s. She was taught by her older sister.

"I didn't want to learn how to make beadwork," she said, noting that her sister felt it was important to pass the tradition down.

The beadwork is a part of the traditional Choctaw dress, worn during traditional dances and other events.

It's part of our culture, Thompson said.

The different colored beads symbolize different aspects of Choctaw life, she said.

White represents peace of war, blue represents the sky and black symbolizes death.

Another beadwork artist at the fair was Tara Steve, daughter of Eleanor Chickaway.

"I used to go to my grandmother's and we would get chinaberries," Steve said. " We would get the seeds out of the berries and my grandmother would boil the seeds. The seeds would make a certain shape and we would make beadwork with these seeds."

Beadwork is a family affair with Steve as she was taught by her mother who was taught by her mother.

Steve said she is still learning new and different aspects in beadwork.