|The following story was written and reported by Christina Rose, Native Sun
News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.
Rencountre places in Miss Rapid City Competition
By Christina Rose
Native Sun News Staff writer
RAPID CITY—When Whitney Rencountre saw his young daughter standing in the Winner’s Circle for the pre-teen Miss Rapid City Pageant, he was filled with emotion. “She was the only Lakota,” he said.
For Jaylee Rencountre, 11, who placed fourth in the competition, participating in the pageant was a dream come true. Despite her reputation for being shy, it seems she’s quietly been preparing for this for years.
Wearing a t-shirt that hinted at her love for dancing, Jaylee said in a soft-spoken voice, “The pageant was really fun. It was an opportunity to boost my confidence. I wanted to be in pageants since I was eight years old.”
Jessie Rencountre was surprised when her daughter came home with the flyer. “I kinda laughed when she told me. She is normally so shy. But when she said she wanted to do this, I thought it was a healthy risk for her to take.”
The family had long been planning a weekend trip to Minnesota for a Memorial Round Dance, but when the pageant came up, Jessie told her husband to go on ahead without them. “But he stayed home,” she said, casting an affectionate glance in his direction. “I am sure he was looking forward to it, but supporting our daughter was more important to him.”
Jaylee was a little nervous at the beginning of the pageant, but she got through it feeling she had done okay. She enjoyed watching the older girls, ages 13 to 24, who had to perform talents, and she enjoyed participating in a group dance. Her biggest challenge came in the form of a question. “They asked me how it was when I went to Italy to dance there.”
A fancy shawl dancer since she could walk, Jaylee and her family traveled to Italy in 2008 where she danced in seven presentations in different communities. Dance will continue to be an important part of her life, she said. “I have been dancing at school and pretty soon I will go to dance camp.”
Jaylee’s father, Whitney, attributes his daughter’s ability to face difficult situations to being a single child for the first five years of her life, and having her parent’s full attention. “We spent a lot of time with her, teaching her to be respectful. She took on a lot of Lakota values, like listening to others without interrupting, and maybe the teachers interpreted that as shyness. I was happy and proud when she wanted to take that risk. I knew that only good things would come of it.”
Whitney Rencountre is originally from Crow Creek and his wife, Jessica, is from Standing Rock. They met in college at Black Hills State University, and have lived in Rapid City for 12 years.
When Jaylee was asked if she had anything she would like to say to the world, she responded, “If you have a dream you want to come true, all you have to do is try your very best and never give up.”
Whitney, who works with the after-school program Ateyapi, said, “With our history, the Lakota and Dakota, we understand the importance of overcoming obstacles and breaking down the walls of stereotypes and racism. It reminded me of how resilient our people are.” He added, “We want to support those who take risks and overcome obstacles, and that is what I saw in my daughter in this pageant.”
Jaylee currently attends school in Rapid City. Besides dance, she is learning to play the violin, and looks forward to becoming an actress and Miss America when she grows up.
(Contact Christina Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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