Miss Navajo contestants entertain crowd on second day of competition

By Alastair Lee Bitsoi
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, September 7, 2012

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(Special to the Times - Donovan Quintero)

Miss Navajo contestant Brittany Hunt performs the Hawaiian hula dance during the contemporary competition of the Miss Navajo Nation pageant on Wednesday in Window Rock.

A fter passing their first test of the 60th Miss Navajo Nation pageant on Wednesday, the seven hopeful women vying for the 2012-2013 Miss Navajo crown turned their focus to the second test.

The second day of the weeklong pageant was the contemporary skills and talent competition. This test is an important component of the pageant that measures a contestant's command of the English language through entertainment, public speaking and impromptu questions.

It's also an opportunity for the hopeful women to showcase and demonstrate their contemporary skills and talents, as well as dressing in an evening gown.

The contemporary competition, which was broken up into six different sub-categories worth 20 points each, began with the entertainment category.

Drawing from her experience, current Miss Navajo Nation Crystalyne Curley, along with the Miss Navajo Nation pageant committee, decided to include the entertainment component in this year's pageant.

"You have to think fast," Curley said of how she was often asked to provide entertainment on the spot. "I brought it forth to the committee because no matter where and when, I was to provide entertainment."

To start things off, Charlene Goodluck of Shiprock opened with a Radmilla Cody tribute song, "She's my hero," in honor of the late Lori Piestewa and all other women veterans in the armed forces.

The next two contestants up on deck were Seri Sophina Maryboy, of Montezuma Creek, Utah, and Krystal Parkhust, of Fort Defiance, Ariz.

Maryboy demonstrated how to conduct CPR on a dummy she called "Andy," while Parkhurst played a song on her six-string guitar.

Crowd favorite Leandra Thomas, of Steamboat Canyon, Ariz., performed a skit of how to harvest prairie dogs. She pretended to be driving home from school in Flagstaff, listening to "Reservation Road" by Stateline, until she came across a prairie dog to hunt on the side of the road.

"Prairie dogs are one of my favorite wild animals to eat," she said, as the crowd responded with a loud ovation of cheers and whistles. "It tastes pretty good."

She was followed up with Verrica Livingston, of Twin Lakes, N.M., a third-grade teacher at Twin Lakes Elementary School. She entertained the crowd with an elementary lullaby, "Five little monkeys sitting on a tree…"

Both Brittany Hunt, of Shonto, Ariz., and Wallita Begay, of Monument Valley, Utah closed the entertainment section with Navajo jokes.

Following the entertainment performance, the contestants turned to the 5-minute talent competition and the public speaking components.

Some of the impromptu questions the contestants were asked included "What message would you give to college students on how to explain the emergence of the Dine?" How would you explain the Navajo government to non-natives? and "What message would you give to high school students regarding how to encourage Navajo teachings?"

Begay drew the question, "What message would you give to non-Navajos explaining the role of the Navajo Code Talkers in World War II?"

Her response was, "I would explain to them that the Navajo Code Talkers were a key instrument in winning World War II. I actually explain this to a lot of non-Navajos. They always ask what is so important about the Navajo Code Talkers.

"It was important because it was a language that was used in war at that time and actually it was probably regarded as something negative in World War II before becoming something positive," Begay continued. "It's a key instrument in our culture…It's important."

As soon as the impromptu questions were asked, the competition moved to the evening gown with more impromptu questions and concluded with the contemporary skills and talent sub-categories.

During the evening gown competition, the contestants wore dresses that ranged from formal ballroom dancing to custom-made dresses designed by Native fashion designers.

Hunt, who wore a shimmering white dress that, she said, represents White Shell Woman, the Navajo deity Navajo woman idolize, was asked, "What is the role of a Navajo woman in the household?"

After thinking her answer through, she said, "She's the one who holds the family together – there for support, offer teachings and feeds the family…"

Toward the latter part of Thursday's competition, the contestants demonstrated their skills.

Goodluck started it off with a power point presentation on a water sample survey she conducted as an intern with the Dine Environmental Institute at Dine College, where she is an alumna.

As part of her internship, Goodluck said she helped survey 24 unregulated well sources in the Cove and Red Valley areas that she later found had exceeding levels of uranium contamination.

"That's very, very dangerous," she said, adding that uranium levels were 300-500 micrograms per litter. "Our research needs to continue."

In this sub-category, Thomas received the loudest ovation for her effort in demonstrating how to rope, vaccinate, ear tag, and brand a calf for her contemporary skill.

Dressed in cowgirl attire, she roped the makeshift cardboard calf on her first throw, exciting the crowd with her ranching skills.

"Animals taught me a lot," she said. "My other teachings come from horses, cattle, chicken and donkeys."

One part of her skit that energized the crowd with laugher, whistles and "wooohs" was when she removed her brand, "YUM," which stood for beef is good, from her makeshift fire, and branded the calf after flanking it, the mammal mooed, as if a real animal.

The crowd immediately laughed and offered their applause.

Parkhurst explained the importance of jewelry making through her art portfolio that got her admitted into Arizona State University' fine arts program.

Livingston demonstrated how to make a doghouse out of 2-by-2s and panels for her Chihuahua, "Oden." Hunt demonstrated how to pack supplies for a 72-hour emergency kit, while Begay also educated the public on the importance of CPR.

Today is the third day of the pageant and contestants immerse themselves in the traditional skills and talent competition.

Similar to the contemporary competition, the women will need to demonstrate their command of the Navajo language through public speaking and impromptu questions, as well as traditional knowledge of teachings and tribal entertainment. For this category, everything is all Navajo and in the Navajo language.

The traditional competition begins at 2 p.m. under the canopy of the Navajo Arts and Crafts Enterprise event tent. The coronation for the 60th Miss Navajo Nation is on Saturday at 6 p.m.