by Miranda Vega Rector of the CUJ –
It’s not usual for Happy Canyon Princesses to reign for two years, but Mary Rivera and Clarise (Clair) Huesties are not your typical Princesses.
Rivera and Huesties were announced the 2020 Happy Canyon Princesses in Dec. 2019. They were both very excited, especially Rivera being that it was her third time competing and interviewing for the court position. Both girls grew up participating in the Happy Canyon Night Show and wanted to be on the court for as long as they could remember, but nothing prepared them for the 2020 Pandemic and the shutdown of the 104th annual Pendleton Round UP.
“It’s been a challenge for the last couple of years,” said Happy Canyon Court Director Ben Maney. “We got two great girls that came on at the end of 2019, start of 2020, and were really motivated – and families were very motivated – so to get the news that we weren’t going to do anything in 2020 was disheartening.”
In the history of Happy Canyon no other court has ever reigned for two years, according to Maney. At the time of their reign, Rivera was 20 years old and Huesties was 22 years old. The age stipulation to serve as a princess is 18 to 23 years old. Currently Huesties is 24 making their reign even more unique.
“Our girls are a little bit older but we have a little bit of flexibility because of what happened last year,” said Maney. “We gave them the option. We said we want you back for 2021, we owe you a year of a court.”
After taking some time to think about it, particularly because to reign as a Happy Canyon Princess essentially means to put everything else on hold, Rivera and Huesties decided they were in.
Princess Huesties is a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) born in Pendleton. Her parents are atway Mylie Huesties and Brian Huesties – of the CTUIR. Her Maternal Grandparents are Douglas and Phyllis Nash – D. Nash being of Nez Perce descent – and her Paternal Grandparents are Alvina Huesties and atway Rex Huesties. The Princess has three sibling: Garrett Huesties, atway Brett Huesties, and atway Warren Huesties.
Princess Rivera is a member of the Little Shell Chippewa Tribe born in Portland. Her parents are Nora and Shawn Rivera. Her Maternal Grandparents are atway Patrick and Rodella Phelan and her Paternal Grandparents are atway Joseph Rivera – of the Blackfeet tribe – and Della Azure – from the Little Shell tribe. The Princesses brother is Ian Rivera.
Below is a series of questions and answers compiled by the Confederated Umatilla Journal during a group interview.
Q: What were you most looking forward to the week of Round Up?
Clair: “I’m just looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to Round Up in general since we didn’t get to do it last year. But prior to that I was most excited for the Little Kids’ Beauty Pageant. When I was little that’s when I paid the most attention to the Princesses, so I am really looking forward to that event.”
Mary: “As Clair said, mine too has always the Junior Indian Beauty Pageant because that’s where I always saw the princesses and I was always like ‘I want to be them one day’. They were so inspiring, beautiful and regal. I was super excited for that and still am.”
Clair: “There’s also the show (The Happy Canyon Show). I’m excited for the show. It was always another place where I saw the Princesses and I was like ‘WOW!”
Q: Tell me about you and your family’s experience this year, horse included.
Clair: “This year we’ve gone to a few parades. The first one was stressful, I was stressing out. We’ve done a couple arena walkthroughs, and that was fun. It’s mostly been fun, at least I think it’s fun. Our horse a little anxiety so she gets stressed out before events which also happens to me, and then we’re both just anxious.”
Mary: “So far it’s been pretty good. After every event I think, ‘Wow, that went way better than expected.’ I feel so much better and ready to do the next thing. But there’s always those nerves before we do anything. My horse does pretty well and as long as our horses have each other they do pretty well. But when they’re away, they’re like “Where’s my friend? We need to be together.”
Q: Tell me about your horse.
Clair: “The Horses’ name is Sonya. She is a Quarter horse and she is 21-ish years old. She likes everything, and eats everything, I don’t think she has a special talent, but don’t tell her that. She belongs to my uncle, Jeremy and Althea Wolf.”
Mary: “My horse is 23-ish, his name is Beau … I don’t know his breed. I feel like he likes everything except last time I tried to give him some peppermints and he spit it right out. I was like, ‘noted, he doesn’t like peppermints.’ His owners are Vicky and Randy Leonard and they do wagon wheel event stuff during Round Up. I don’t know if he has any special talents, he is just a good boy, he is calm.”
Q: Being a Happy Canyon Princess, what advice would you give future princesses?
Clair: “Be yourself. That’s what people like to see when you’re out representing, is you being yourself but being your best self.”
Mary: “I think, take it all in. You will learn so much from it and you’re going to grow like you don’t even realize. Like I have grown so much from having this experience and I wish that I could go back to take it all in even more. It’s truly an amazing experience.”
Q: What is your favorite part about participating in the Happy Canyon Night Show?
Clair: “Being around my family and friends, surrounded by a bunch of good people is really fun.”
Mary: “I feel like it’s the same: Being around friends and family and just getting that experience every year. Everyone comes together and it’s definitely like a holiday.”
Q: If you were on a deserted island, who would you pick to accompany you?
Clair: “Bear Grylls, he’s like a survivor show guy. Sorry, I’m not taking anyone I can’t use, I’m gonna survive.”
Mary: “I feel like I’d take my dad, he’s a pretty outdoorsy guy and could help me out.”
Clair: “You’re so thoughtful,” said Clair to Mary. “I mean my uncles know too but I’m not going to bring them out there,” she joked.
“But then you get your family support and you get someone who knows how to survive.”
Q: What has been your proudest achievement this year?
Clair: “I think surviving the pandemic, right? I think for all of us. Coming out not crazy.”
Mary: “That was a good one.”
Clair: “That was a good one. You can copy me that’s fine, she laughed.”
Mary: “Ya I think being in this circumstance and continuing to do what we’re doing in the best way possible. Having to work around and being able to be ambassadors and continuing to try our best to get out there in the safest way possible.”
Clair: “… uhhhh… you just took mine and made it better”
Q: What goals would you like to achieve in the next five years?
Clair: “I’d like to complete schooling. I’m enrolling this fall at BMCC in Business Leadership and Services. In five years I am hoping to be done with that and moving on to the next thing.”
Mary: “I’m hoping to graduate from Central Washington University with a degree in Food Science and Nutrition and get an internship to become a dietitian and complete my masters. I’m starting my senior year, so I should be, hopefully, on track.”
Q: If you woke up tomorrow and gained any one ability or quality, what would you want it to be?
Clair: “Abilities like, super powers? Because I’d like to fly. Then I wouldn’t have to pay for gas.”
Mary: “Hmmm …”
Clair: “You can talk to animals …”
Mary: “Ooohh, I want to talk to animals! That would be really exciting then I can hear what Sonya and Beau are saying when they’re annoyed with us.”
Q: What is your biggest fear and why?
Clair: “I think my biggest fear – and I’m getting deep here – is losing my family, all of them. I’m going to cry if I think about it. I mean, we were close before, but becoming a princess made us closer because we spend a lot more time together. So ya, losing them.”
Mary: “Maybe failure … We’re getting deep here too! Not being able to succeed or being good enough at certain things. I want to do it and not let anyone down.”
Q: How did you prepare for your role as a Happy Canyon Princess?
Clair: “There was lots and lots of riding. There still is lots of riding, lots of horse riding. I mean, that was mainly what I did. And then practicing public speaking. But it really wasn’t in public, I was just talking in the mirror.”
Mary: “Definitely horse riding is like the biggest one. They always say you better know how to ride a horse or else you’re not going to be on court. So I started riding pretty young because I wanted to do this. And public speaking – and I’m still working on it – but I definitely had to practice that.”
Q: Before the pandemic started, what were you most looking forward to as a Princess?
Clair: “I was looking forward to Round Up and the Show, obviously, and the little kids’ pageant. But I was also looking forward to the school visits that the princesses usually do. Again, when I was little they would come visit my school, and not a lot of people visited my school –its Athena so … But, they would come visit our school and I would be so excited and represented and thought of. I mean, there’s not a lot of native kids in Athena.”
Mary: “I feel like overall, the interactions with the little kids. It’s still my favorite part but I feel like we don’t get as much of that as we usually we would. It’s so much fun having a little kid run up to you, talking to you and they’re so excited. But we can’t be as close to them now, we can’t interact like that. That’s the part that’s so sad because I was that kid, and I wanted to go and talk to the princesses and they can’t.”
Q: What has been your biggest hurdle during the pandemic?
Clair: “Having to be away from everyone during the pandemic was the biggest challenge. It still is because we still can’t see certain people. Over the pandemic we couldn’t go see my grandpa, and we actually lost him a few months ago, so… I wasn’t able to go visit him and we had to talk to him through a window. Then not being able to see friends and family that’s far away … it’s been hard.”
Mary: “Definitely not being able to see family. It sucks because you get so used to driving where ever and seeing your cousins then all of a sudden it stops. I just finally got to meet my 1 year old cousin for the first time last weekend. It was so special. My grandma hadn’t been able to meet her, and everyone was crying. She was born during the pandemic and this was the first time we got to hold her and spend time together, so it was pretty special.”