MINNEAPOLIS– History was made with the new Miss Minnesota crowned Friday in Eden Prairie, as 25-year-old Rachel Evangelito was the first Indigenous woman to win the crown.
Evangelisto describes the moments before she found out she had won.
“I was just standing there, shaking, just waiting for what was going to happen next,” Evangelisto said, “And then, I think, I passed out. As soon as they put that [crown] on my head, I just remember saying, ‘Stop it, I have to appreciate this and what’s going on in my life right now.'”
Evangelisto is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which is the Lakota Sioux Nation, bordering North Dakota and South Dakota.
She was one of two Aboriginal women to place in the top three this year. For her, wearing the Miss Minnesota title was about representation.
“I’m going to walk through and break down all these barriers and say I have to be authentic, I have to tell the truth and just share my experiences,” Evangelisto said.
Evangelisto shows off her heritage in every way, including the jewelry she wears daily.
“I make all of my earrings myself,” Evangelisto said. “I make my own ribbon skirts and I take great pride in using my hands and being creative.”
She has been competing in pageants since she was 13, winning the Miss Winona title to earn her place in the Miss Minnesota competition.
When not showing off her skills in the Chinese martial arts technique of Praying Mantis Kung Fu, she works as an Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) guardian.
“I look out for the best interests of young Native Americans who are in child protection and foster care cases,” Evangelisto said.
After completing her reigning title, she will continue her education at the Native American Law and Sovereignty Institute at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul.
“I’m so excited to be able to start law school and be a legal force, I feel, in Indian Country,” Evalgelisto said.
But first, she plans to visit the 11 Native Nations of Minnesota and inspire the young girls who live there.
“Your strength isn’t defined by your wealth or your successes. It’s defined by your community and what you give to the world,” Evangelisto said. “And I want to show people that if you have a dream, you can achieve it.”
Evangelisto will compete for the title of Miss America in December.
For more information on the Miss America Minnesota organization, click here.