Two outshine others in Miss Navajo traditional competition

Miss Navajo contestants from left; Charlene Goodluck, from Shiprock, N.M., Seri Maryboy from Red Mesa, Ariz., Krystal Parkhurst from St. Michaels, Ariz., Leandra Thomas from Steamboat, Ariz., Verrica Livingston from Twin Lakes, N.M., Brittany Hunt from Shonto, Ariz., and Willita Begay from Oljato, UT stand on stage after completing the traditional talent contest Friday in Window Rock. One of them will be crowned as the 2012-2013 Miss Navajo this evening at 6 P.M. at the Navajo Arts and Crafts in Window Rock. (Special to the Times - Donovan Quintero)

By Alastair Lee Bitsoi
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, Sept. 7, 2012

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(Special to the Times - Donovan Quintero)

TOP: Miss Navajo contestant Leandra Thomas from Steamboat, Ariz., walks across the stage in front of the audience during the traditional talent contest at Navajo Arts and Crafts in Window Rock on Friday.
SECOND FROM TOP: Miss Navajo contestant Verrica Livingston from Twin Lakes, N.M., middle, playfully pulls out a question from a jar held by Miss Navajo Crystalyne Curley Friday in Window Rock. Master of ceremonies, Earl Tulley is at right.
THIRD FROM TOP: Miss Navajo Crystalyne Curley looks out into the crowd Friday during the Miss Navajo traditional talent contest at the Navajo Arts and Crafts store in Window Rock. Seven young women are vying to become the next reigning Miss Navajo.
FOURTH FROM TOP: Miss Navajo contestant Verrica Livingston, right, speaks to the audience about the song she is about to sing Friday during the Miss Navajo traditional talent contest in Window Rock.
FIFTH FROM TOP: Miss Navajo contestant Brittany Hunt from Shonto, Ariz., waits backstage as she is introduced to the audience Friday during the Miss Navajo traditional talent contest in Window Rock.

Probably the most challenging aspect of the Miss Navajo Nation Pageant is the traditional skills and talent competition, where everything is all Navajo and in the Navajo language.

For this category, the seven hopeful women vying for the 2012-2013 Miss Navajo Nation crown had to demonstrate their command of the Navajo language through public speaking and impromptu questions, as well as traditional knowledge of teachings, traditional dress, tribal skills and talents.

Out of this year’s seven contestants, Brittany Hunt of Shonto, Ariz., and Leandra Thomas, of Steamboat Canyon, Ariz., were the only two contestants able to speak and answer their questions in fluent Navajo. 

Their command of Navajo delighted the crowd of pageant-goers, who nearly filled up the 3,000-seat event tent at the Navajo Arts and Crafts Enterprise on Friday afternoon.

The rest of the competition, which included Wallita Begay, of Monument Valley, Utah, Charlene Goodluck, of Shiprock, Verrica Livingston, of Twin Lakes, N.M., Seri Sophina Maryboy, of Montezuma Creek, Utah, and Krystal Parkhurst, of Fort Defiance, spoke and answered their questions partially in Navajo and mostly in English.

Hunt impressed the crowd with her ability to tell Navajo jokes, which made the audience laugh for periods at a time, her storytelling of the Navajo version of the “Little Red Riding Hood” and her ability to explain why a Navajo prayer is conducted toward the east in the morning and west in the evening – all spoken in the Navajo language.

Hunt, who wore a blue velveteen dress with a turquoise squash blossom and belt during the traditional dress competition, concluded her Navajo prayer with these words, “What ever is bothering you; let it be cured away. Shinaahá’hí. Shinaahá’hí”. Shinaahá’hí. Shinaahá’hí.”

Just like Hunt, Thomas was equally impressive with her knowledge of Navajo teachings, speaking and philosophy on life.

She performed two Blessing Way prayer songs, as well as explaining the importance of the stirring sticks Navajo women acquire, which, she said, is used to keep monsters like hunger, laziness, sickness, and other vices away from the household.

During the impromptu question category, Mistress of Ceremony Leila Help-Tulley asked, “Explain the meaning behind the kénitsaa (moccasins) and what it’s made of?”

In her response, Thomas said in Navajo, “Before our moccasins became red, they were white. Coyote is the one who wore the moccasins and made them red by walking into water that made it discolor. The leggings are made from deerskin…and to this day, we have red moccasins.”

Despite what many would consider a dominant performance by both Hunt and Thomas in Friday’s traditional competition, the other contestants held up their end of the bargain as well.

Livingston, who changed through multiple outfits from a maroon and gold biil to various squaw dresses, provided an emotional performance during the skills category when she dedicated a song to her late grandfather, Ernest Dale, Sr., who taught her the Navajo teachings she knows.

“I really miss my grandpa,” Livingston said, while switching off between Navajo and English. She dedicated two Navajo songs in honor of him.

Goodluck sang a Radmilla Cody song during the talent category and demonstrated how to prepare blood sausage from preparing diced potatoes, sheep grease, vegetables, chili, corn meal and placing the mix into the large intestine of a sheep to make the foodstuff.

She also drew one of the hardest questions of the night in the impromptu question category, “Explain the difference between the Yei bi chei and Fire Dance ceremonies?”

After thinking her answer through, she responded in English, saying, “They are both perform them in the winter.”

For Maryboy, she explained both in Navajo and English the process of grinding corn, sang a Navajo social song, and drew the impromptu question, “Who is White Shell Woman?

She responded in English, saying, “She is First Man and First Woman’s daughter. She got impregnated by the Sun and gave birth to two twins. They’re Monster Slayer and the other twin. They killed monsters…”

Parkhurst demonstrated the process of stamping a bracelet for her traditional talent, and also read a book authored by her older brother in the Navajo language.

Begay, who wore a one-strap biil during the traditional attire category, sang the Star Spangled Banner in Navajo, as well as presented a power point presentation on traditional remedies she learned from her grandmother.

Similar to Goodluck and Livingston, Maryboy, Parkhurst and Begay struggled with their public speaking and impromptu questions, often requesting for the repeat of their questions and responding to their questions in the English language.

Friday’s traditional competition concluded four days of the contest. The seven hopefuls advance to the final round on Saturday, where one of them will be named the 2012-2013 Miss Navajo Nation.

The coronation for this year’s 60th Miss Navajo Nation is Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Navajo Arts and Crafts event tent.   

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