Taking part in history

Miss Navajo reflects on her whirlwind journey to the nation's capital

By Leandra Thomas
Special to the Times

January 31, 2013

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P eople who have been to the District of Columbia area know what to expect in the city. There are business and government workers, tourists visiting the museums and the monuments. Everyone uses the underground Metro train system. The city is always busy, but it was much busier on this particular weekend.

It is nearly five months into my reign. I had accepted my title of Miss Navajo Nation with an open mind, but it did not cross my mind that I would be a part of an historical event - The Presidential Inaugural Parade for United States President Barack Obama.

I was expected to be on board and leaving Friday morning at 1:30 a.m. My mother and I arrived along with the Navajo Nation Band members at the Basha's parking lot in Window Rock ready and seated on one of two charter buses. Before we got to Gallup, I was out - fast asleep. I woke up in Texas. Next Oklahoma, Arkansas stopping only for fuel, meals and restroom breaks. Not to mention Tennessee seemed to stretch by the mile then into Virginia. I was anxious and excited to see the lights of Washington, D.C.

After driving day and night and switching through several bus drivers for both buses, we hit traffic and were getting a taste of what it would be like the rest of the weekend. We had arrived in D.C on Saturday evening.

Sunday our day started early.

It was "Traditional Day" for us all. We were able to visit museums and other monuments. Tina and Brian were our tour guides and taught us about the history of D.C. I wore my moccasins and traditional outfit all day.

There were people admiring the crown and the beauty of our Diné people. Random people from Florida, Michigan, and as far out as Cuba and Mexico asked for photos.

That evening was the Navajo Nation Inaugural Reception. Walking the "Red Carpet" was something else with all kinds of camera lights flashing. This is where I was able to meet and greet other leaders and dignitaries from other nations as well as our own.

Then, on the big day, Monday morning, everyone was up super early. Everyone looked sharp and ready to perform.

Navajo Nation band members, myself, some of our Diné veterans, Vice President Rex Lee Jim and the Navajo president's Chief of Staff made our way to the Pentagon on the bus. We waited.

After a couple of hours of waiting we passed through a strict security checkpoint. Then it was more waiting. Finally we made our way to the National Mall near the start line for the parade. Then we waited once again.

By this time the sun was slowly setting, the clouds were forming, and the air was getting colder. Banner carriers were ahead of me as I, dressed in my white and maroon bill and decorated in my turquoise jewelry, was followed by the Veteran Color Guard. Listening to the music by the band members along the parade route, I begin to get anxious as we neared the turn by the Capitol Building.

It was dark by the time we reached Pennsylvannia Avenue.

Ahead I could see a bright spotlight getting closer and closer with a man announcing "The Navajo Nation Band traveled over 2,000 miles..."

As I made my step into the spotlight, I could see hundreds of people behind the heavily guarded barricades to my left and to my right. The placed swarmed with media. I turned to another direction and there was President Obama's viewing stage. This was the moment my thoughts froze along with my smile and my hands. I was humbled to be standing in front of the U.S President representing our Great Navajo Nation.

Returning to the bus, my phone exploded with emails, Facebook messages, and compliments. We had done a great job.

Tuesday, Wednesday we traveled day and night back to our homeland and arrived back in Window rock early Thursday morning.

As the ambassador of the Navajo Nation I am grateful, blessed, and humbled to have taken part in this historical event. It should make us realize the more you work towards a goal, dream or plan, the closer it will come to you if you are determined to do it. Also our Diné people have many talents and we should take care of them and use them in a good and positive way.

This was a road trip - driving across the country. I made new friends, and met new relatives on this journey.

I thank the Navajo Nation Band for their hard work and great music along with a special thanks to the director Darwin Jackson for making it happen. We are thankful to the sponsors in supporting us in our journey. Ahe'hee'!

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