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9-year-old Little Miss Ch’ooshgai honing Diné-speaking skills

9-year-old Little Miss Ch’ooshgai honing Diné-speaking skills


The Little Miss Ch’ooshgai Princess is setting her sights on learning Diné Bizaad.

Ladaya Desiderio, the Little Miss Ch’ooshgai Princess 2022-23, just turned 9 years old in December. She is in the third grade and is making language learning part of her routine.

She is Tódích’íi’nii and born for Honágháahnii. Her maternal grandfather is Hashtł’ishnii, and her paternal grandfather is Tsi’naajinii.

She is the daughter Laurisa Clarke.

Ladaya Desiderio and her family recently moved back to the Navajo Nation from Las Cruces, New Mexico, where her mother attended New Mexico State University.

While settling into her new school at Ch’ooshgai Community, becoming acquainted with her teachers and curriculum, an upcoming pageant audition was announced, and Desiderio came home one day declaring that she would try out for it.

“Princesses have always been a role model for her,” Clarke said.

Ms. Clarke is Tódích’íi’nii and born for Hashtł’ishnii. Her maternal grandmother is Nóóda’í Dine’é, and her paternal grandfather is Ta’neeszahnii.

Clarke shared some memories of when her daughter was a toddler. She explained that she’d dress up like a princess, favoring them and emulating their poise and talent.

Desiderio said the talent portion of the competition was singing the national anthem in English.

“Singing comes natural for her,” Clarke said.

While rehearsing, Desiderio couldn’t let that angst in her go unnoticed, so she decided to learn to sing it in Diné too, with the help of a former Miss Navajo Nation titleholder.

Direct influence

Navajo Times | Holly James
Little Miss Ch’ooshgai Ladaya Desiderio sings the national anthem in Diné Bizaad in Gallup last Friday evening.

Desiderio’s teacher, Ms. Ronda Joe, influenced Little Miss Ch’ooshgai through the Navajo language teaching in her daily curriculum.

Joe is the Navajo language and cultural teacher at Ch’ooshgai Community School. She is the Miss Navajo Nation 2016-17 titleholder.

Set out to sing the national anthem in her Navajo language, Desiderio’s affirmations and Joe’s teachings were finding their way.

She practiced before and after school, before going to sleep while getting ready in the morning, and with any free time.

At her first attempt at any pageantry, she won the title and is currently serving her first term.

Desiderio completed the talent competition by singing the national anthem in English.

Shortly after being crowned, Little Miss Ch’ooshgai completed her goal and began singing the national anthem in the Navajo language at public events.

“She knew she could do it, so she did,” Clarke said.

Little Miss Ch’ooshgai is continuing to learn Diné and is working toward becoming more fluent.

Her másáni Laurinda Dehiya shared her feelings that she has always been amazed at the overall tenacity of her granddaughter.

“This is all her,” Dehiya said.

Dehiya shared that her granddaughter has always been self-driven.

“We don’t know where she gets it, but we are excited and show her encouragement and support,” Dehiya said.

As Little Miss Ch’ooshgai Princess shows she is learning, she believes she inspires others to also learn Diné along with her.

“She amazes me every day,” Clarke said.

About The Author

Holly James

Holly James is Kinyaa'áanii (the Towering House Clan) and born for Tódích’íi’nii (Bitter Water Clan). Her maternal grandfather is Kinłichíi’nii (Red House Clan), and her paternal grandfather is Honágháahnii (One-walks-around Clan). Ms. James was born in Tséhootsooí (Fort Defiance), Ariz., and grew up in Phoenix. She began her tenure with the Navajo Times as a freelancer, and a year ago, she moved from Nevada to Diné Bikéyah and became a full-time reporter. Her passion is sharing the light of her Diné People, the tenacity, pride, ingenuity, and resilience they show daily. She intends to enrich the hopes and aspirations of the Diné through the stories of contributions and hardships, survival, and culture revitalization.


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