TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - Cherokee Nation citizen Desiree Matthews, 16, of Watts, was crowned 2019-20 Junior Miss Cherokee after competing at the 28th Annual Junior Miss Cherokee Leadership Competition Saturday.

While representing the tribe as Junior Miss Cherokee, Matthews, a junior at Colcord High School, will serve as a goodwill ambassador to promote the Cherokee Nation and share the culture and history of the tribe.

“I am always in awe of and inspired by our youth who enter our annual leadership competitions. It shows great courage, but also a passion for their tribe and its culture, history and heritage,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “We are very proud of each young lady who competed in this year’s Junior Miss Cherokee Leadership Competition and congratulate Miss Matthews on being named the next Junior Miss Cherokee. I know she will be a great ambassador of our great tribe.”

Matthews is the daughter of Mark and Miranda Matthews and is also a member of the 2018-19 Cherokee Nation Tribal Youth Council. She said the true meaning of serving as the next Junior Miss Cherokee would not fully resonate until her tenure ends next August.

“I really couldn’t fully answer what it means to be named Junior Miss Cherokee until the end of my reign, but I am very honored to represent the Cherokee Nation and I hope that I can be the best that I can be,” Matthews said.

During the competition, contestants are judged on their use of Cherokee language, a cultural presentation and a speech on their platform, as well as their responses to an impromptu question.

Matthews told the traditional Cherokee creation story as her cultural presentation. Her platform speech focused on the opioid abuse prevention. Matthews also answered an impromptu question on what advice she would give to Native youth growing up in this age of social media.

Jasmine Carpitcher, 17, of Tahlequah, was named first runner-up and Raynee Nofire, 16, of Salina, was named second runner-up.

Judges for Junior Miss Cherokee this year included Morgan Rodman, Marie Eubanks, Derrick Vann and Cora Flute.