Diné wins 2012 Miss Indian UNM crown

By Glenda Rae Davis
Navajo Times

ALBUQUERQUE, May 10, 2012

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Wahleah Rose Watson

I t has rapidly become an adventure," said Wahleah Rose Watson, 22, in a telephone interview.

Only a week after she was crowned Miss Indian University of New Mexico, Watson said she has already been invited to countless conferences and powwows in New Mexico.

Watson, who is Totsohnii born for Todichiinii, won the crown April 25 in the annual Miss Indian UNM pageant.

"I attended the Gathering of Nations," Watson said of her first duty as Miss Indian UNM. "I had to enter with the royalty at the Gathering's grand entries."

Watson, originally from Fort Defiance, is a junior majoring in nursing with minors in Navajo language and Spanish flamenco dancing at UNM.

While attending school full-time Watson is also a part-time math, science, and flamenco tutor in the UNM Student Support Service-TRiO program.

"I wanted the experience an opportunity to represent UNM, but most of all the honor to represent my family and community," she said in an interview with UNM Today.

She added, "I believe Miss UNM represents a Native woman valuing her Native identity. I want to be well-rounded, educated and a role model for UNM, my community and the younger generation."

Watson said she decided to study nursing because her only niece was diagnosed with a rare cancer. Watson noticed that her niece relies heavily on her nurse during treatment.

"The nurse is not only a caregiver, but they created a special relationship," she said.

When she finishes work for her bachelor's degree in nursing, Watson intends to pursue a master's degree in midwifery or as a nurse anesthetist.

She is the first in her family to go to college.

Her parents are Gerri and Joaquin Watson Sr. and she has three siblings.

"We are all so proud of her," said her mother. "It's definitely something different in our family and something we have to get used to."

Watson was enthusiastic about her role as the new Miss Indian UNM saying, "I know it's going to be a big role but I can't wait."

Watson was one of three contestants in the pageant. The other contestants were Jessica Becenti and Ariel Nez, both Navajo.

According to the Miss Indian UNM website, Miss Indian UNM serves as an ambassador and represents UNM as well as its Native American community.

The title was initiated in 1982 by the UNM Kiva Club student organization in response to the Gathering's Miss Indian World.

Currently, American Indian Student Services supports the current Miss Indian UNM in pageant preparation and advisement.