The Page Unified School District’s U.N.IT.Y. Club (United National Indian Tribal Youth) and the Heritage Committee welcomed the new cultural ambassador Trevor Yazzie and the new princess Valerie Gee to their 2018-19 reigns last week.
The UNITY Club and the Heritage Committee held their first annual Ambassador/Princess pageant on Nov. 28 in an effort to create a new platform for sharing with Page how they will represent the indigenous community.
Seven contestants made the brave move to vie for the title in scored categories: introduction in native language, traditional talent, modern talent, and impromptu question created by a panel of six judges. The contestants were judged on cultural representation, skill, confidence, speed of answer delivery, posture, tone of voice/speech and talent.
First contestant was Precious Kingston, 17, from the Navajo tribe from Utah. She’s a member of the Navajo Club and the UNITY Club.
The second contestant was Ranelle Bennett, 16, from Kaibeto. She’s a member of the Navajo tribe, part of the UNITY Club council and the Navajo Club.
Third was Robyn Nelson, 17, from Page. She’s a member of the Navajo tribe, a member of the UNITY Club council and an accomplished musician and student athlete.
Lumalee Curley 16, from the Navajo and Apache tribe, from Page.
The final contestant was Valarie Gee who was crowned UNITY Princess.
Gee, 15, is a junior at Page High School and a member of the Navajo tribe from Low Mountain. She’s in the UNITY Club and serves on the Page High School student council. She hopes to become a teacher using culture to inspire learning. She won the judges over with her quick wit, and her fun and friendly personality on stage, which shined especially bright when the pressure was on.
She presented herself in a fashion that acknowledged all tribal nations, the community youth, peers and elders. For her traditional talent she read a children’s book in the Navajo language and then translated it. For her modern talent she insisted that she was more of a simple girl who loved to bake. She walked the audience through her cake baking and decorating process then gave the judges and audience a piece of cake.
Princess Gee’s answer to the impromptu question, “As the UNITY Princess how would you promote culture and leadership?” was a story of a little girl named Sidney.
During the Veteran’s Day parade Sidney said she wanted a large flag, which traditionally went to the veterans. When Sidney was told only veterans get the big flags Sidney announced she was going to be brave and grow up to one day earn an official sized flag of her own.
“Sidney is a symbolism of all youth, in terms of her bravery, she is outgoing. She really inspired me. She was raised right and we all should be that [brave].” Gee said.
Gee grew up watching her sisters win crowns in Chinle and followed their advice to be herself on stage. Her father, Alvin, also has experience with pageants as the Program Supervisor at the Dine Youth Council, so she has a good support system. “Right now, I feel excited and can’t believe I won.” she said after the pageant.
Gee hopes to represent her duties in a way that the community could be proud of.
“I am not from Page but for the last three years it has been my home. Thank you to everybody.”
Contestants for Ambassador were: Eli Secody, 16, from the Navajo tribe. He’s a member of the UNITY Club council, and the Navajo Club and is known for his dance routine that the audience loved during the talent show.
The second contestant was Trevor Yazzie, and it was he who was awarded UNITY Ambassador
Ambassador Yazzie, 17, is a member of the Navajo tribe from Indian Wells. He is on the UNITY Club council and attends the annual UNITY convention in San Francisco to represent the Page Native Youth.
He won the judges over with his confidence on stage, his knowledge of his cultural history and overall demeanor that shined with self-respect and charisma. His Introduction in Language was flawless with a friendly confidence. For a traditional talent he sang a peyote song that was also a prayer for everybody to remember how important it is to pass cultural teachings to the youth. His modern talent was a montage of his favorite hobby, photography. His photos have won amateur/youth awards and he currently takes photos for the monthly PHS newsletter, the Page Scholar. Yazzie plans on studying pre-med in college to one day study general surgery.
During the impromptu question, he was asked, “How would you promote culture and leadership?”
He explained how he would lead by example to promote the UNITY Club motto of culture and leadership. To do this he plans to attend many community functions, use social media to rally the community support and go to conferences to learn what he could to bring back to the native youth of Page.
“I feel speechless and overwhelmed; I have no words for [how I feel],” Yazzie said about his win after the pageant.
His grandmother who was in the audience with his mother and sister said when he announced to them that he was running for the title they thought he was playing.
“I can’t believe it. We thought he was joking with us but he won. I am [happy].” his grandmother said.
A show-stealing moment happened when contestant Robin Nelson’s modern talent showcased her ability to play the violin. She played so beautifully that it provoked a deep sense of pride and hope that all could feel. She has played violin for five years and in middle school she qualified for Honor Orchestra, then she went on to qualify for the regional honor orchestra in high school, the only Native American to do so. “It was me alone with 300 kids in Arizona,” she said. “It was a big step. So I am very proud of this. It really matters.”
She played ‘Concerto in D major’ by Adolf Hoover.
Joining in the festivities was Little Miss Warrior, Peyton Hatathlie from the Tuba City Elementary School who inspired the audience singing three traditional songs.
All contestants placed: First Attendant to the Princess is Precious Kingston; Second Attendant is Robin Nelson and third Attendant is Ranelle Bennette. Eli Secody is the First Runner up to the Ambassador.
Amber Clark gave an emotional farewell speech that prompted the UNITY Club to surround her to show their support.
“These are my brothers and sisters. “ she said holding back tears. She added that she will still be a part of the club and concluded she will be available to help the new royalty with advice if they need it. She was elected by the club to be the PUSD UNITY Princess before they decided to hold a pageant. She crowned Princess Gee honoring the four directions and private words of gratitude and hope was passed between them.
Judging the pageant was: Tayana Billie; Mary Francis; Desiree Fowler; Irene Whitekiller; Carlos Begaye; and tabulator Jerry Pahe.