2012 contestants add to long history of Miss Navajo pageant

By Alastair Lee Bitsoi
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, August 16, 2012

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(Courtesy photo)

Miss Navajo contestants get down on their knees to make frybread for the skills competition of the pageant in the 1970s.

E very year during the annual Navajo Nation Fair in September, the reigning Miss Navajo Nation bids farewell from her post as the ambassador of the tribe and a new winner takes her place.

For the last 59 years, this has happened.

This year marks the pageant's 60th anniversary, and the winner from this year's pool of seven contestants will be the 60th Miss Navajo ever to hold the coveted title that represents the Navajo people for one year.

The new winner will join a long and elite list of former Miss Navajos.

Of the seven contestants, the Navajo Times was able to interview three of them.

One of those contestants is Krystal Parkhurst, who is running for Miss Navajo at the urging of her family. She is promoting tourism as her platform.

"I'm a jewelry artist," said the 25-year-old from Fort Defiance. "I would like to promote tourism on the Navajo Nation and educate people on imports that take away business from Navajo people and culture."

Parkhurst is Kinyaa'aanii (Towering House People), born for Irish. Her maternal grandfather's clan is Naakaii Dine'é and her paternal grandfather's clan is Oneida. She is pursuing a degree in American Indian Studies and metals from Arizona State University.

"I hope one day be a great silversmith like my grandparents, Isabelle and Ivan Kee," she wrote in her biography submitted to the Office of Miss Navajo Nation.

Verrica Livingston, 24, who is Tó'aheedíinii (Water Flows Together Clan), born for áshiihnii (Salt People Clan), is running to promote the teachings of Hozho, which she learned from her grandfather and parents.

"My platform is pretty much focusing on everything," said Livingston, who twice entered the Miss Inter-tribal Ceremonial and placed first runner-up in last year's competition.

"My main thing is to reach out to every community," said Livington, who is a third-grade teacher at Twin Lakes Elementary School in her hometown, Twin Lakes, N.M.

Livingston, who has a bachelor's degree in elementary education from the University of New Mexico, also competed for the Miss Indian World title in April during the 29th Gatherings of Nations Powwow.

For Leandra Thomas, 25, the opportunity to reach out to all segments of Navajo society through the Miss Navajo crown is a once in a lifetime experience.

"If you don't know who you are, you become lost and left in darkness," she said. "You as the ambassador have the opportunity to shed light. Running for me is more of grasping an opportunity to help people of all ages."

Thomas is Naakai Dine'e (Mexican People Clan), born for Tsi'naajinii (Black Streak Wood People). Her maternal grandfather's clan is Kinyaa'áanii (Towering House People) and her paternal grandfather's clan is Honágháahnii (The One Who Walks Around Clan).

She has a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Northern Arizona University, and is currently pursing a master's in Bilingual Multicultural Education from NAU.

As for the pageant being in existence for 60 years, current Miss Navajo Crystalyn Curley said the emphasis in this year's pageant is about being Navajo.

That, she said, includes, speaking, reading, writing and knowledge of cultural practices.

"My main point was to keep it all in Navajo to reflect on how the pageant use to be done in the fifties and sixties," Curley said. "Everything back then was in Navajo."

This year's competition will be much like that of past year with the sheep butchering and traditional bread talent competitions taking place on Sept. 5 at the Navajo Nation Fairgrounds at 9 a.m.

The contemporary skills and talent competition is scheduled for Sept. 6 at 2 p.m. The traditional skills and talent is scheduled for Sept. 7 at 2 p.m The coronation of the will be inside the tent at NACE on Saturday, Sept. 8 at 6 p.m.

The skills and talent competitions, and the coronation, will take place inside the canopy tent at the Navajo Arts and Crafts Enterprise in Window Rock.

In addition to the competition, and as part of reflecting on the 60-year anniversary, Curley said her office is going to provide presentations on the history of former Miss Navajos since 1952.

Over the summer, she said her office hired two interns to archive the history of the pageant and past title-holders.

"They went through every article to see what Miss Navajo is doing," Curley said. "We have all these articles at the museum from the Navajo Times and will share these articles with the audience during the competition."

Pageant sponsor Navajo Arts and Crafts Enterprise is investing about $20,000 into the event. This is the third year the tribal enterprise is sponsoring the event.

J.T. Willie, marketing director for NACE, called this year's pageant "60 years of tradition."

Willie said $10,000 will go to the Audra Etcitty-Platero Scholarship for former Miss Navajos pursuing graduate degrees, and that most of the other money is used toward a bigger canopy tent that would accommodate a bigger crowd.

Willie also said Curley would be officially inducted in the Miss Navajo Council as a member, and that a press conference would immediately follow the crowning of the new Miss Navajo.

"This year will be exciting because it's the sixtieth annual," Curley added. "The Miss Navajo title is the very few royalty pageants that is more than fifty years. It's a prestigious title. It's just wonderful to see the 60th anniversary."

Th other four contestants include Wallita Begay, Charlene Goodluck, Brittany Hunt and Seri Sophina Maryboy.