Miss Navajo adds butchering to her resume
OAK SPRINGS, Ariz.
Miss Navajo Nation Shaandiin Parrish on Friday walked up a small hill to where she taught Oak Springs Chapter youth employees how to butcher.
Dressed in her work clothes, which included a black blouse with a large turquoise broach, a white skirt with a sheep design, a sash belt under her concho belt, moccasins and, of course, her Miss Navajo Nation sash and crown, Parrish was ready to butcher.
Parrish has visited chapter houses for the past few weeks, answering invitations for her to talk with summer youth employees about school and career.
It was only recently she was invited to teach youth how to butcher. Oak Springs Chapter was her second lesson with Inscription House the first. Next is Red Valley.
“This is a great opportunity for our youth to learn,” Parrish said. “How I typically demonstrate this, is I have the kids be hands on.”
The scene was vastly different from last summer with chapter officials, residents and youth all out and about enjoying the event. Last summer was completely different because the pandemic had put a stop to summer youth employment, public gatherings were not allowed, and 57-hour weekend lockdowns imposed. Parrish handed out food and supply donations.
“This specific event is an example of our resilience,” Parrish said. “I think it’s a celebration of how far we’ve come and definitely a way to continue to share with the world that our traditions and culture are still here and they’re still continuing. I’m happy we can butcher with our masks while socially distancing.”
Kyren Johnson, 17, has been working at Oak Springs Chapter for the past two weeks as a youth employee. Comparing this summer to last, Johnson said he was cooped up inside and now that he is working it has become a more eventful summer for him.
“We are going to learn how to butcher from Miss Navajo,” said Johnson, who admitted he didn’t know how to butcher. “I was shocked because I didn’t even know she was coming here.”
Filmore Slinkey, a chapter maintenance worker, said it’s been a blessing the chapter has opened for the community, but it isn’t where it normally is at just yet.
It was in March when the chapter received a backhoe after the Navajo Nation Council approved and President Jonathan Nez signed legislation using $24 million for heavy equipment for chapters.
The sheep-butchering demonstration, as well as Navajo Technical University officials talking to youth, was planned by chapter officials for the past two weeks, said Slinkey. The two sheep that were used for the demonstration was donated by a community member.
Nez, who was invited to the demonstration by Parrish, said this youth event is an example of restoring a way of life because it’s teaching culture, traditions and language, especially after the impacts of the pandemic.
“We have gone through tough times with COVID-19,” he said. “We are seeing the light of the end of the tunnel.
“The resilience and strength of us being overcomers has been magnified across the country,” he said. “We were high in COVID positive cases at one time, but now we are high in vaccination rates.”
Over 70% of Navajo residents are completely vaccinated, said Nez.
The pandemic also canceled last year’s fair season, which included the Navajo Nation Fair in September, which is when the Miss Navajo pageant takes place.
Due to this interruption, Parrish served an extra year as Miss Navajo, and although the pandemic is still here, with the help with vaccinations and public health mandates Parrish said a Miss Navajo pageant will happen.
Staying on as Miss Navajo for an extra year has been both positive and negative for Parrish. On a positive note, she helped Nez and his administration distribute food and supplies and was involved in important conversations. She also helped people get registered to vote in the November elections.
“With the pandemic and being Miss Navajo, it has taught me so much,” said Parrish, who has a degree in political science from Arizona State University.
“I’ve learned the good and the bad, like what we need,” she said. “The next steps after being Miss Navajo is engaging what I’ve learned as Miss Navajo because I’ve been able to hear the conversations and am fortunate to work under the Nez-Lizer administration.
“I’m excited about pageant,” she said, “and the mindset of continuing my service to the Navajo Nation.”