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Atikameksheng Anishnawbek’s Miss Ontario Regional Canada 2023 calls on youth to Live Out Loud

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Tia Nootchtai of Atikameksheng Anishnawbek is crowned Miss Ontario Region Canada on May 6. – Photo by Bertrand Productions

By Kelly Anne Smith

SUDBURY — Tia Nootchtai represents Atikameksheng Anishnawbek as Miss Ontario Region Canada. The 15-year-old was crowned May 6 at the event billed to celebrate Ontario’s exceptional young ladies aged 13-24.

After final exams, she was getting ready to travel to camp for the July 1st weekend. Tia explains that Miss Ontario Regional Canada gives delegates an opportunity to gain volunteer hours, receive training in public speaking, and gain references. Participation in fundraising is a big part of the event.

“I put in about five or six months of [preparation] before the pageant actually happens. I posted two fundraisers at my school as well as other media posts. I was super duper involved in my community as well as helping people.”

Delegates raise donations for Northern Ontario Families with Children with Cancer (NOFCC).

“When I was seven or eight years old, I actually hosted a lemonade stand like every little kid does, and I raised money for the NOFCC before even getting into pageants. Then it turns out, five or six years later, I’m doing pageants and raising money for the same charity. Besides that fun fact, I raised almost $700 for NOFCC through two bake sales that I ran through my highschool at Lockerbie Composite School; it was a lot of hard work and dedication. Luckily, I have a lot of family and friends who are very good bakers and they were willing to help. I am so thankful I have a really good support team behind me. They baked everything, I packed everything – once staying up ’til 2 A.M. packaging and pricing everything.”

Tia is passionate about her platform ‘Living Out Loud,’ which grew from her own experiences.

“I was spreading my platform, which was ‘living out loud’ – teaching Indigenous youth to be culturally accepting of themselves as well as teaching people to be unapologetic of themselves. Everyone else just feels comfortable in your presence. You exert confidence and you know that who you are and who you are meant to be is exactly who you are supposed to be in that very moment.”

Tia appreciates the support the pageants bring.

“Growing up, I was always a big sister but I never really had a big sister figure,” says Tia. “Up until pageants – that’s why I fell in love with them even more.”

Walking into highschool was where Tia felt she could be who she wanted to be.

“I was loud, bubbly, and energetic but at the back of my mind, I felt people judging me or looking at me a certain way and I couldn’t shake that feeling. It was only when I got into highschool and leave elementary school where certain people made fun of me or teased me.”

Tia wants to share her knowledge and experience with children who are feeling pressured externally and internally.

“That’s how my platform came along. I never want any child to feel the way I did when I was their age, which is why, in the future, I’m going to be hosting different elementary schools in the Rainbow District School Board and also the Catholic school board to empower the youth. That is something I would have liked to have when I was younger kid,” she shares. “A lot of the kids, they feel that they can’t go to a parent, or principle, or guardian. I want to make sure that every kid is open enough and is confident enough in themselves to know that it’s okay to go see someone. It’s okay to feel hurt. But it’s 10 times better to just get back up again.”

Sports have always been a big part of Tia’s life. In 2019, she was a hockey centre and the captain on her team. COVID-19, a job, and the pageantry slowed down her hockey participation but she plans to get back on the ice soon.

“I do play a lot of high school sports. I went to NOSSA for badminton, and for cross country and for track and field last year. I’m going back into hockey so I’m really excited about that. It’s all a part of being a teenager – playing sports. I’m excited to get back on the ice because I really felt at home because I played it for so long.”

Tia says sports emphasizes leadership characteristics in a person.

“If you are a natural born leader, it emphasizes those characteristics that you have and it allows you to grab the room’s attention and be a leader for all of your teammates, no matter what age you are.”

Her sights are set on the future.

“I’m in Grade 10 and will take a Grade 11 law class. I’m into law and political science. I’m also interested in the parliamentary page program, which is available to students attending university in the Ottawa district. I love talking to people.”

Tia talks about relaxing over the summer break, perhaps at camp.

“During the summer, I’m going on a guest paid trip with an organization called Turtle Concepts with Emma Morrison, Miss World Canada 2022. I’m super excited about that. We are going to be going to different rural Indigenous communities throughout Ontario.”

Tia will be wearing her crown attending events in July and August.

“There are a few fundraisers and charities that are going on, probably a few walkathons. I’m also going to be working a little bit and coaching karate and attending a few classes, and just relaxing and soaking it all in because come Grade 11, I have a busy first semester. I’m on my school’s student council, athletic association, and the Lockerbie Composite representative on the Rainbow District School Board Student Senate so that’s a really big thing.”

Tia says she will be spreading her “Live Out Loud’ message any way she can.

“You can grow and you can change but your core values and you as a person deep down are to remain the same, not because of anyone else but because of yourself. That’s what I wanted to show throughout my reign, what I want to show through my preparation, and show through everything on this Miss Ontario journey.”

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