Beauty, Hózhó to the Diné, or Navajo people, symbolizes living in harmony and balance with the Earth, the spirits in the plants and animals, with the sky and with each other. So it’s fitting that the Miss Navajo Nation Pageant is a week-long celebration of the Beauty Way in many aspects of a woman’s life.
“Hózhó is also living the Diné way of life: culture, traditional and language,” 2017-2018 Miss Navajo Nation Crystal Littleben said. “Hózhó represents that overall balance of everything. Negative and positive.”
Inspired by the female deities in Diné teachings, First Woman, White Shell Woman, Changing Woman and Spider Woman, the representative chosen to be Miss Navajo Nation is meant to exemplify the strength and many roles Diné women play in their matrilineal society. They will be a goodwill ambassador, lead initiatives in their communities and help preserve the teachings, language, and culture passed down to them from their mothers, aunties and grandmothers.
In its 65th year, Summer Jake, 25, Autumn Montoya, 21, Kayla Martinez, 23, competed to become Miss Navajo Nation. The three contestants shared that they, like many in their generation, are not fluent in Diné bizaad, Navajo language, which is one of the requirements of the pageant. This is due to forced removal of their parents and grandparents generations from their families and their placement in settler boarding schools where they were forbidden from speaking their language and practicing their traditions. All three contestants pledged that language revitalization was a major goal and part of their platform.
“Our language is strong, it’s healing, it’s sacred and it’s worth preserving for generations to come. I want to become fluent so I can teach my kids and hopefully my grandkids,” Summer Jake said.
During the competition, the contestants demonstrated traditional skills like sheep butchering, preparing traditional foods, tying a tsiiyéeł (traditional hair bun), and answering impromptu questions in both English and Diné bizaad. Contestants also conducted business interviews, performed contemporary talents and presented a platform of how they would use the power of the office to encourage holistic health, promote Diné language and songs, advocate for victims of domestic violence and bring awareness to missing and murdered Indigenous women.
These photos show just a glimpse of the marathon competition.