B.C. woman hoping to bring Miss Canada Globe Petite title to Xeni Gwet’in Nation

“I like to experience new things and try everything,” explained Sierra Chi?ela William as she competed in a beauty pageant in Toronto.

Growing up in the remote community of Xeni Gwet’in First Nation, 180km west of Williams Lake, the 19-year-old is a long way from her hometown of Toronto vying for the petite Miss Universe Canada title.

On the first day of the competition alone, William says she has learned a lot.

“I’m getting more and more out of my comfort zone doing this, which is really great,” she said of her experience so far. This is her first time participating in a beauty pageant. The competition will include interviews, evening parties, tea parties and talent shows, among other activities including modeling.

She plans to use styling aspects to highlight some Aboriginal styles, including Aboriginal clothing, including ribbon dresses and gowns, made by her own company, Chiñela Designs.

“Honestly, I can do anything with it and I really like it.”

William, who has been running her own sewing business for almost two years, was inspired to start the project by her grandmother, Erin William, who made her a ribbon dress, jingle skirt and moccasins. Erin teaches Sierra to sew.

“I have a lot of respect for her,” said the young seamstress, who is also in the third year of her social work degree.

Her reason for entering the competition is to help bring attention to the stories of boarding and day school survivors.

Entrants choose an organization or charity to advocate during the competition, William will promote the Orange Shirt Day Association.

“I’m the first generation to not go to boarding school,” said Sierra, whose grandmother, father and uncle are all boarding school survivors. “I want them to be heard.”

While only about half of the entrants arrived in the early stages of the competition, due to weather travel delays, she said they expected a total of about 34 entrants across all categories.

In Sierra’s petite category, entrants must be 5’5″ or less, and she must be 5’5″.

While some may criticize pageants for their focus on appearance, Serra has been hearing only positive news from friends and family.

“I get nothing but love and support.”

Sierra is the daughter of Shannon Stump and Roger William, who for many years headed the Xeni Gwet’in and helped bring the Tsilhqot’in title and rights case to the Supreme Court.

He is proud to see his daughter take up the challenge.

“She’s a bright young lady,” he said of his daughter, noting that she grew up with three older brothers, which may have helped her develop a strong voice.

“She’s been challenging me since she was a little girl,” he said with a laugh.

Sierra Chi?ela William is the first woman ever to compete in the Canadian Miss Universe pageant at Tsilhqot’in Nation.

“I think it would be amazing if I won,” she said.

As of press time, William reports that she has so far been awarded the regional title of Miss Southern British Columbia.

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