The Native American Student Association held their Miss Native American SUU pageant on Nov. 18. It ended with Makaeli Begaye filling the shoes of Jade Warren, Miss NASUU 2021-22. Acacia Williams was named first runner-up, and Tiana Sam was named second runner-up.
“The significance of winning this title, for me, is that I get to represent my culture. The crown has already been invited to multiple events, so I plan on attending those events and showing Thunderbird pride and showing Navajo pride,” Begaye said.
The pageant was judged by Anisa Pelayo, Miss Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah; Naji Runs Through, Miss Native Utah Tech First Attendant; and Shantel Isreal, Miss NASUU 2020-21, who filled in for MakanaLani Pike, Miss Cibecue Apache. Tina Calamity emceed the event.
Contestants Begaye, Williams, and Sam competed in a traditional talent category where they showcased different parts of Navajo culture. Begaye went first and introduced the audience to Navajo string games, winter activities that tell stories through patterns made with the string. Sam followed by reading the children’s book “Llama Llama Red Pajama,” which she had translated into the Navajo language. Williams ended the talent category by singing a traditional Navajo song. The pageant also included a question category where the judges asked each contestant a different question to help them determine the winner.
The NASA also used the event to showcase other Native American cultures. Prior to the talent portion of the pageant, four traditional dances took place, each from a different culture. Four members of the Latinx Student Alliance dance team performed, followed by elementary school student Tanner Benally, two members of the NASA dance crew, and Keytbelle Gutierrez-Monroy.
“When I dance, my memory sees pictures of my family that passed away. That’s what makes me dance,” Benally shared.
Later, three more educational performances were given. NASA Vice President Shannon Luna, the NASA dance crew, and Eric Pikyavit all demonstrated parts of their cultures. Pikyavit taught the audience about Native American hand games and sang songs to go along with them.
This event closed out the NASA’s Native American Heritage Week, put together in honor of November being Native American Heritage Month.
Story and photos by: Anden Garfield