ARTIST IN MOTION: Miss Native American (2013~14), Sarah Ortegon

ONE’S LIFE PATH may take shape in a few dance steps, or by the dance of a stubby pencil upon a sheet of paper. For Sarah, these were no minor experiences, they revealed talents which culminated into international notoriety.
As she entered college, her energy morphed a shy Eastern Shoshone/Northern Arapahoe hybrid into an amazing light for all people.
Meet Sarah.


My mother inspired me to art, always encouraged me. My father was a preacher, so to keep me sitting still in church my mom would hand me a pencil and paper and doodling kept me occupied…I learned to bead by watching and doing, serious drawing and other media came from being more open with my art as I entered MSC Denver. There, I earned a baccalaureate of fine arts, and traveled to Europe and studied abroad. Art has taken me places I had not imagined.

The following piece I did for a friend (Denver Nuggets fan) where I incorporated modern dress on a Native person to show our contemporary inclusion in mainstream America. So often, people still assume we reside in Tee~Pees. As priviledge of Miss Native American USA, I traveled with Larry Yazzie’s dance group, via the U.S. State Dept. to Moldova, and there, students at the university level even had such questions.

Sarahs drawing

I’ve grown into a much more confident woman as a result of my transition through


I made this jingle dress, belt, and earrings you see above, so art surrounds me. I am more expressive and comfortable speaking publically whether about art or about other causes dear to me, like substance abuse and suicide awareness. I’m now on the http://escape advisory board where we assist/train at~risk federally enrolled tribal youth.

There have been tough moments in my travels, too, having witnessed some of the difficulties native children/people feel in extremely rural areas: unemployment, infrastructure, immobility, and role~model challenges. I remain humble and greatful to share time with them.
Not having been born into a wealthy family (12~kids) likely influenced my path, because instead of the latest video games or dolls, paper and pencils were abundant. Part of the reason I am ME was that my childhood squeezed me to artistry; thus, socioeconomics can be overcome.

Artists must familiarize themselves with the business aspects of art~as~profession. Many artists never reach fortune alive and fame comes after they die. Be aware of that fact if a degree/career in art interests you.

My experiences as an artist and those of MissNAUSA have taught me many lessons that have spiritual or practical features. For instance, the tedium of beadwork, sitting in one spot and deep in thought or concentration taught me patience and improvisation under pressure. I use these social skills at work, as a Poker~room supervisor.

After art, after MissNAUSA, life keeps going…

The most meaningful experience thus far in my life, was as Lead Dancer in a special dance, to honor my father’s passing. After that dance, I was told a young girl who had lost her sister a few years before my appearance, was encouraged by my special to dance in her sisters honor also, something she thought she could not do.
We have to remind ourselves that people watch others’ choices, and behavior for answers, or strength.

No matter where life leads us, we can’t take knowledge for granted despite the roads you take. Be courageous and keep learning.



(Interview questions omitted due to spacial/format parameters)

Thank you, Sarah.


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