Contestants struggle with tough parts of Miss Navajo pageant

(Times photos - Donovan Quintero)

Slideshow of Miss Navajo Nation sheep butchering competition.

By Alastair Lee Bitsoi
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, Sept. 4, 2014

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(Times photos – Donovan Quintero)

TOP: Miss Navajo contestants Shannon Gorman, foreground, and McKeon Dempsey race against the clock as they compete in the Miss Navajo butchering and frybread competition in Window Rock.

MIDDLE: Miss Navajo contestants Ann Marie Salt, left, and sheep butchering partner Ronda Joe, waste no time in beginning their competition in the Miss Navajo butchering and frybread competition in Window Rock.

BOTTOM: Admirers and the attending audience takes photographs of the six Miss Navajo contestants (from left to right) Ronda Joe, McKeon Dempsey, Shannon Gorman, Farrah Mailboy, Ann Marie Salt and Koltey Tso.

One of the toughest components of the Miss Navajo Nation pageant is the sheep butchering and frybread-making contests, which officially launched the 2014-15 competition Wednesday morning.

The butchering is typically stressful for contestants since the public is involved and offers critiques as to how the women should properly harvest a sheep. There are also regional differences and teachings of what sheep represent and mean to the Navajo way of life.

Contestant Ronda Joe, for instance, had trouble answering a question in Navajo when she was asked to describe what part of the sheep is known as ákíz, collectively known as the backbone, thigh and ribs.

Instead of directly answering the question, Joe, in her limited Navajo, said that she didn’t know what ákíz was and deflected the question by telling jokes in an effort to generate public applause.

Dooshílbaahazindá,” Joe said in Navajo, while laughing.

When reigning 2013-14 Miss Navajo Nation Natasha Hardy asked the crowd for the answer to Joe’s question, Maybell Bitsilly, of Mariano Lake, N.M., also had trouble answering.

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