Canku Ota

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


april 7, 2001 - Issue 33



Brave Enough to Spell


by Sasheen Hollow Horn The Navajo Times


 Photo: Janelle Boone


Chinle fourth grader bests field at Navajo Nation Spelling Bee


WINDOW ROCK - Curie. Satiety. Lux. Diadem. Postprandial ... these were just some of the words that stumped participants in last week's Navajo Nation Spelling Bee.

All participants except Brendan Guinn, that is.

The Chinle Elementary fourth grader bested a field of about 50 other students from schools across the reservation to become the nation's top speller on Thursday. He will be representing the area at the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. on May 30-31.

"It feels really good," Guinn said about winning the contest, which was co-sponsored by the Navajo Nation Department of Youth and Community Services and the Gallup Independent.

Among the prizes Guinn took home were a word processor, a Webster's Third New International Dictionary, a certificate for a $100 savings bond, and plane tickets to the national competition for himself and his sponsor.

Runner-up honors went to sixth grader Darrin Nez from Tuba City Boarding School. This was Nez's first time competing at the spelling bee.

"I'm real excited," he said. "It's an honor just to win."

Nez won an embroidered jacket, a T-shirt and a mouse pad after a 26-round battle with third-place winner Janelle Boone.

Boone, representing Window Rock Elementary School, was the other fourth grader who had qualified for the afternoon grand spell-off - which took the top two from each grade's competition held earlier in the day.

The way the spelling bee is structured, a potential winner between two remaining contestants must spell another word correctly in a round after that in which his/her competitor spelled their word incorrectly. Nez and Boone were potential winners over half a dozen times.

Taking fourth place was Guinn's sister Shannan, a sixth grader at Chinle Elementary.

This year is the first in which organizers were able to award third and fourth prizes, thanks to last minute donations from businesses that had read of the competition only the day before.

Boone was awarded a 19-inch television, courtesy of Fort Defiance Housing Corporation, and Guinn won a compact disk/cassette tape/radio donated by Bitsui Environmental Consultants.

Each of the 10 finalists - including Chantelle Russell of Sanders Elementary; Jessica Owens of Hilltop Christian; Joni Nofchissey of Tse Ho Tso Mid; Andrea Thomas of Kayenta Middle School; Tammie Carter of Shonto Prep; and Angel Scott of Wide Ruins Community School - received programmable compact disk players.

Words used in the spelling bee were taken from a pronouncer guide that students never even see, according to pronouncer Craig Pemberton.

In all, over 575 students participated in the five agency spelling bees that culminated in last week's competition.

"It's something good for the kids," said coordinator Tina Tommy, who is with Fort Defiance DYCS. "We try to promote this one because we don't really see it advertised."

Each year, five coordinators are charged with notifying all interested schools in their agency of the spelling bee. This year, those coordinators were Delphine Lee, Roberta Hanna, Mirandy Yazzie, Teron Yazzie and Tommy.

Last week's contest featured the top two winners, in grades four through eight, from five agency spelling bees held throughout January and February. Students from 29 schools participated in the interagency bee, which took place at the Navajo Nation Museum.

Tommy wanted to thank all tribal and school employees who served as judges, pronouncers, bailiffs and door monitors, and especially "the students that were brave enough to come up here and spell."


Scripts Howard National Spelling Bee




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