SUU celebrated Native American Heritage Month with the Miss Native SUU pageant this past Tuesday. Nailoni Beard was crowned the new Miss Native American SUU.
Nailoni impressed the judges with her knowledge of the Navajo language and her performance of the Basket Dance.
“I was really impressed with her intro,” Chris Mendoza, judge and Coordinator for the Center of Diversity and Inclusion said. “The fact that she did it all in Navajo but that she had a deep understanding of her culture, what her dance meant more spiritually and culturally on a much deeper level than just going on and dancing. Those two facts I think drove her to win Miss Native.”
Nailoni placed above Mikayla Wauneka, claiming second, and Morgan Whiskers claiming third.
The contestants presented a video introduction, a talent performance and answered questions from the judges. All three contestants performed a traditional dance as a part of their talent portion.
“I didn’t realize that they had prepared so much for their talents,” said Mendoza. “Each of their outfits was handmade and they brought them back from the reservation. I was really impressed by that. That category by far was, I think for all of us, probably the most stunning.”
The night also featured performances from young flute players, a drum group and a Bird Singers performance.
Many members of nearby Native American groups came to support and watch the women compete for the title.
“There were a lot of members of the Navajo nation that came up, which is a pretty far drive,” Mendoza said. “Quite a few of the local Cedar banded Piute came as well as Apache. (It was) A pretty large representation of native culture which I think was really great.”
William Robertson for SUU News