Diné woman takes the crown

(Special to the Times - Donovan Quintero)

Kansas Begaye of Waterflow, N.M. is new Miss Indian World

By Shondiin Silversmith
Navajo Times

ALBUQUERQUE, May 2, 2013

Text size: A A A

After a week of proving she has what it takes to be a leader in Indian Country, Kansas Begaye was crowned Miss Indian World 2013-2014 on April 27.

"And this year's Miss Indian World is Diné from Waterflow, N.M.," was all it took from co-host Lisa Meeches for the crowd to erupt in cheers as Begaye started to cry, walking to the center of the Pit in a green one-shoulder velvet dress with her hands firmly placed over her mouth in shock.

Begaye, 24, accumulated a total of 2,780 points during the pageant to best the 15 other contestants.

But, reminded Miss Indian World Committee member Beulah Sunrise-Rau, "They are only competing against themselves."

"I feel so honored and so humble. It's been a great, challenging week for each one of us," Begaye said on the acceptance of her new title. "I'm so honored to be here representing all of you. I just want to say thank you."

Begaye is the daughter of Leonard and Dorothy Begaye and she is the second youngest out of three brothers and three sisters. She is Tl'aashchi'i (The Red Bottom People Clan) born for Hooghanlani (Many Hogans Clan). Her maternal grandparents are Hask'aa hadzohi(Yucca Fruit Strung Out in a Line Clan), her paternal grandparents are Tachii'nii (Red Running into the Water People Clan).

She is originally from Waterflow, N.M. but currently resides in Rio Rancho, N.M. and works as the membership director with the New Mexico Dental Association.

She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2011 with a bachelor's degree in Native American Studies, and she hopes to continue her education in the future by studying Indian law.

Begaye said as she takes on the role of Miss Indian World she wants to set her focus on raising awareness in higher education as well as cultural preservation.

"Education is very important and it's very imperative to our indigenous nations all over the world," she said. "It makes us stronger as Native people to come together and we can have doctors, dentists and lawyers as Native Americans."

She added, "If it wasn't for our culture we wouldn't be here today."

With that in mind, Begaye said as she starts out her reign as Miss Indian World she would like "for us to be a little more aware of our surroundings and culture to preserve it."

"Without our culture we're not in contact with who we are, and we need to have that connection," Begaye added.

Begaye is the 30th Miss Indian World to wear the crown, and she said as the pageant started last Tuesday she prayed every morning throughout the whole week.

"I believe the most important thing when doing anything you have to start out with a prayer," she said. "As Navajo people we pray."

During the interview segment of the competition, Begaye said she made sure to convey everything she felt in her heart.

"Everything that I wanted to talk about it came from the heart first. I really tried to connect with what I was doing at the time and what I was passionate about," said Begaye, who also earned a trophy for best interview.

Begaye's traditional talent, she talked about the young woman's Navajo puberty ceremony, the kinaalda.

During the public speaking competition, held on Stage 49 on April 26, Begay talked about the Navajo Nation government and the roles Navajo women have played in it.

She said she wanted to focus on the strength Navajo women have, so she discussed Changing Woman as well and the role she played in developing the Navajo people.

"We really had to make sure that as indigenous women we were strong É had to prove we knew about our culture and we had to be passionate about our people," Begay added when asked what stood out the most during this pageant.

During her farewell speech, former Miss Indian World Jessa Rae Growing Thunder said, "This crown was never worn for me but it was worn for each and every one of you. This crown will be taken care of. You will be taken care of."

Begaye first ran for Miss Indian World five years ago, so she had some credibility when she told all the other contestants that there is another time for them.

"I encourage each and every one of you to run again. Don't give up," she advised her competitors.

First runner-up, with a total of 2,695 point, was Brittany Clause of Ridgeway from Canada, who also won best dancer.

Second runner-up with a total of 2,685 points was Jesse Brant of Canada, who also won best traditional talent.

Miss Congeniality went to April Yazza of Zuni, N.M., best essay went to Cualnezca Tonanizin Miranda of Sacramento, Calif. and best public speaker went to Baillie Redfern of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.