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Miss Utah Navajo works to keep her community healthy

MONTEZUMA CREEK, Utah

The Miss Utah Navajo crown has deep meaning from the two feathers carved on the inside to the round stamping that represents the seven Utah Navajo chapter houses.

It’s a beautiful crown that represents Monument Valley and the sacred mountains in the area.

But Kayla Frank, the 2019-20 Miss Utah Navajo, doesn’t wear it anymore.

“I had to retire it because it needs a new beginning especially since this pandemic happened,” Frank said. “It’s been through so much and I don’t think anyone can ever go through what this crown went through.”

The 25-year-old titleholder could feel the trauma in the crown and knew it was time for it to rest. So she designed a new one for the next generation of Utah Navajo ambassadors to wear.

“It does need a new beginning for the next generation to be safe,” she said, “to not experience it because it’s not good for the next generation.”

Navajo Times | Ravonelle Yazzie
Miss Utah Navajo Kayla Frank is excited about upcoming projects for her community, like the new gymnasium for Montezuma Creek Elementary in Montezuma Creek, Utah.

San Juan County, Utah, which is predominantly Navajo, leads Utah in the number of per capita cases of COVID-19. The population of the county is nearly 15,500. There are currently 368 cases of COVID-19 in Utah Navajo and overall the county has 399 cases.

The number of cases looks to have plateaued and the state has moved the county into the yellow guidelines phase with fewer restrictions. However, the county is going to continue to monitor the communities of Aneth, Montezuma Creek, Oljato and Mexican Hat.

For yellow phase guidelines, people can be in groups of “50 or fewer, symptom check prior to team sport competitions or practices, K-12 schools reopening anticipated for 2020/2021 school year, all businesses open and take reasonable precautions, dine-in service open with appropriate social distancing and hygiene measures and six-foot distance between household groups at events & entertainment venues.”

People need to continue to social distance, wear a mask and wash their hands.

Frank has been working with her school and local leadership to help the communities she represents during this pandemic.

“Through this pandemic it hit hard here also,” Frank said. “Our families here in the deserted areas, they haven’t got much access to food.”

There has also been the issue of elders not having access to masks. Thankfully she’s been able to secure donations of 150 masks that she distributed to elders in her community.

She’s been encouraging her community to follow public health orders to social distance and wear a mask.

“If you’re healthy, you’re a healthy nation,” Frank said. “I like to promote that.”

The Utah Navajo Health System in Montezuma Creek tests community members throughout the week.

“We’ve been trying to encourage people to go in and get tested,” she said.

Montezuma Creek and Aneth are very rural with only gas stations and a Family Dollar to provide necessities. The closest towns to these communities are Blanding, Utah — that’s a 40-minute drive — and Cortez, Colorado, at around an hour’s drive.

This is when local resources become a big help in keeping families home.

“Our food bank has been a major help,” Frank said.

They sort, box and even deliver food to the community. Ultimately she hopes her community continues to be safe and healthy.

“I’m really hoping that everyone recovers from this pandemic, this big tragedy,” she said.“I just wish nothing but the best for everyone around here.”



About The Author

Pauly Denetclaw

Pauly Denetclaw is Meadow People born for Towering House People. She was raised in Manuelito and Naschitti, New Mexico. She was the co-recipient of the Native American Journalist Association's 2016 Richard LaCourse Award for Investigative Reporting. Denetclaw is currently finishing her degree in multimedia journalism from the University of New Mexico - Main. Denetclaw covers a range of topics including genetic research, education, health, social justice issues and small businesses. She loves coffee, writing and being with her family. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Her handle is @pdineclah

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