According to the Miss Navajo Nation Council, the pageant winner represents womanhood and fulfills the role of “grandmother, mother, aunt and sister” to the Navajo people. As a role model, Miss Navajo must exemplify the essence and characters of First Woman, White Shell Woman and Changing Woman and to display leadership as the Goodwill Ambassador.
In 1999, the Branch Chiefs of the Navajo government declared that one of the fundamental principles of the Navajo government should be the preservation of Navajo culture. Miss Navajo serves as an example of this.
The pageant is open to enrolled female members of the Navajo Nation who are between 18 and 25 years of age, possess a high school diploma or GED and are fluent in Navajo and English. Contestants must have no children and cannot have ever been married. Other application requirements include a physical examination, current drug test results, three letters of recommendation, two color photographs (one traditional and one contemporary), a $250 application fee and a 1,500 to 2,000-word essay and PowerPoint presentation on “Contributions I Would Make as the New Miss Navajo Nation.”
During the pageant competition, Miss Navajo contestants are not allowed to have contact with friends and family members until the winners are announced. Use of profane language, tobacco, alcohol and drugs are also forbidden during the competition. Contestants are not to engage in “unacceptable socializing with a boyfriend (i.e., intimate display of affection, etc.)” in public.
Pageant contestants must be on time for all functions and events and must dress themselves individually. They are required to use all of their own items during the competition and cannot borrow items from other contestants.
All pageant participants must be accompanied by a parent or chaperone at registration and orientation. Chaperones can be a mother, cousin, grandmother, aunt or personal acquaintance.
If a contestant is selected as Miss Navajo, her responsibility is to represent herself, her family and community. According to the Rules and Regulations of the competition, “Miss Navajo Nation must understand the position is not about glamour, but understand the role of Miss Navajo Nation is a highly respected position; therefore must serve her ambassadorship with honor and respect by promoting and educating on the Navajo Culture, Language and Tradition.”
Miss Navajo Nation travels internationally and locally on behalf of the Navajo people and holds a salaried position for one year with the Navajo Nation, which includes health benefits and a furnished tribal apartment. Upon successful completion of her reign, Miss Navajo Nation will receive an educational scholarship of $7,500 (for undergraduate students) or $15,000 (for graduate students).
Requirements for Miss Navajo include relocating to Window Rock, AZ, withdrawing from college or university during her reign and being responsible for the care and safekeeping of her crown and sash. Miss Navajo is not allowed to cohabitate with an intimate companion, become pregnant or be seen in bars or under the influence of tobacco, alcohol or illegal drugs during her reign. She must conduct herself as a positive role model for youth and the general public and report all gifts donated to her.
Spanning five days, the Miss Navajo pageant consists of several competition categories that test contestants on their Navajo knowledge and skills. As Sunny Dooley explains, “You have to speak your language. You have to have a skill. You have to have a talent, and I think that’s what makes our pageant one of the few that really taps into the whole woman.”
Learn more about the categories in the pageant competition.
In this portion of the pageant, contestants are required to demonstrate two or three cultural activities selected by the pageant coordinators, entirely in the Navajo language. Activities include bread making and sheep butchering.
Former Miss Navajo Nation Audra Ettsity Platero introduced sheep butchering as a requirement. As she explains, “I felt that was an important part of the Navajo way of life.” Sunny Dooley adds that, “Sheep is life to the Navajo people. We use every aspect of that sheep from spiritual purposes all the way to signs of family wealth and success.”
This category involves a presentation of the essays contestants submitted with their application on “Contributions I Would Make as the New Miss Navajo Nation,” along with the accompanying PowerPoint presentation as a visual. This competition also determines the contestants’ fluency level of both Navajo and English languages.
Community representatives quiz and interview contestants on Navajo government and history, covering both traditional questions and current issues. Questions might include “According to Navajo mythology, how are the stars created and placed?” and “How does the Navajo seal reflect the Navajo government?”
Contemporary Skills and Talent
Contestants must demonstrate one skill and one talent, entirely in English. Examples of skills include modern dance, acting, gymnastics or a fitness demonstration. Examples of talents include singing (modern or classical; lip-syncing is not allowed), literary arts or musical performance.
Traditional Skills and Talent
Contestants demonstrate one skill and one talent of their choice entirely in the Navajo language. Such skills might include dancing, skits, weaving, storytelling, making jewelry and grinding corn. Acceptable talents include singing, musical performance or hobbies presented in an artful or musical format.
Evening Gown Competition
The Contemporary and Traditional Skills and Talent competitions include an evening gown and traditional attire section. Contestants are asked to be conservative in choosing a gown that shows respect to elders in the audience.