A true Native American Princess wins title

April 6, 2009 by Andi Murphy Round Up

Jackie Silago accepts traditional crown, responsibility of recruitment and advocating for higher education (Media Credit: Andi Murphy)

Jackie Silago accepts traditional crown, responsibility of recruitment and advocating for higher education (Media Credit: Andi Murphy)

A new Miss Native American NMSU was crowned Friday night after a tie between the first runner-up and the new princess was resolved by judges and organizers.

Jackie Silago, 19, a sophomore majoring in social work is the 2009-10 Miss Native American NMSU princess. She is a Navajo from Crownpoint, N.M., a small town on the eastern edge of the Navajo reservation. She won a prize for being “most photogenic” and a congeniality prize – along with the towering silver crown and sash of royalty.

“It was very exciting,” Silago said.

As the new princess, Silago will be a role model, an ambassador on behalf of NMSU and a recruiter of Native American students. She will travel to high schools and represent NMSU and be an advocate for higher education. During her reign, she plans to be more involved with student organizations and have more of an effect in the events planned by student groups.

Silago’s parents were in the audience among the seven other contestants’ family members and friends, who came from miles away to see their daughters dance, sing, demonstrate Navajo rug weaving and tell stories of livestock.

Cameras flashed every two seconds to capture sparkly jingle dresses, Jemez buffalo dancers and a child powwow fancy dancer. Absolute silence swept across the audience when contestants explained the significance of their dance, drum making, hairstyle, corn grinding and traditional prayers.

“It’s a way to show our tribe and show others about who we are and how unique we are,” Silago said. “The girls did really good, I’m proud of all of them.”

The best part about the pageant was being able to share a part of her culture with the audience, said Philean Yazzie, first runner-up. For her talent, she covered a female drum in deer hide, used for Native American church songs – there is also a male drum.

“I can do it [cover a drum and other traditional practices],” Yazzie said, “and I’m proud to be able to say that I can do it.”

Yazzie is 19 years old and is majoring in criminal justice. She is Navajo and comes from Haystack, N.M. The second runner up is Nichole Trujillo a Pueblo/Omaha/Ohkay Native. The other contestants were Delaine Charlie, Michelle Gallegos and Rochelle Vandever of the Navajo tribe, Danielle Kie, Acoma/Navajo/Laguna and Amanda Madalena, Jemez Pueblo.

“I’m actually happy being runner-up,” Yazzie said. “The girls were really nice … I had fun.”

This year’s pageant was a big step forward from previous years, said Timothy Begay, president of the Native American Business Association, the group that organized the pageant. The event lasted nearly four hours as eight contestants completed a public speaking contest, traditional activity contest and five impromptu questions. Last year, there were only two contestants and the year before that had about three, Begay said.

“Having the eight women here trying for this is great,” said Naomi Begay, former Miss Native American NMSU during her farewell speech.

With an occasional pause to hold back tears, Begay said ‘thank you’ to her grandmother for making her dress out of Blue Bird flour sacks and to her friends and mother for their support. Begay said she was sad and happy that her reign is over. The pageant was great and the contestants were really competitive, she said.

“I’ll know that she’ll [Silago] do a really good job this year,” Begay said after the pageant. “She has good plans and I know she will execute them.”

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