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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


November 17, 2001 - Issue 49


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Onsae Named Native American Youth Ambassador


 Story and photos By S.J. Wilson The NavajoHopi Observer


Recently, four young women competed for the honor of representing Flagstaff high schools as Native American Youth Ambassador 2001-2002. At the end of the evening, Jessica Onsae (Hopi), the daughter of Carroll and Debra Onsae, took the title against stiff competition. (Her maternal clan is rattlesnake. Her paternal clan is coyote and her father is from the village of Hotevilla).

Eugene Begay served as the program’s emcee. Though he expressed that he’d never served in that capacity before, Begay performed successfully, providing a lively and humorous pace.

This is the first year the competition has carried the title, Native American Youth Ambassador. Previously known as the Miss Indian Youth of Flagstaff, the title was changed to allow young men to compete for the honor. Though one young man had signed up for the competition, he was unable to participate.

The role of Youth Ambassador, Begay explained, is to educate non-Indian students about Native American life, while being a role model for younger students, particularly in regard to education.

To compete, contestants must be in grade ten to twelve with a grade point average of at least 2.5. Competitors are also judged by their conduct, the recommendations of teachers and other adults, and finally by a written essay.

The four young women who competed for the title were Cynthia Freeman , Sheena Hale, Jessica Onsae and Brunlissa Williams.

Onsae, who was escorted by Duran Howato from Hotevilla, is an honor roll junior attending Flagstaff High School. She is an athlete, and a member of the track team. For her modern talent/skill, Onsae demonstrated her gift in creating beautiful baby quilts. Her mother taught her the art when Onsae needed a gift for a newborn niece. She sews her blocks by machine, and finishes the rainbow-colored quilts by hand. Her own designs and appliqués decorate some of the solid blocks used in her work.

Further demonstrating her love of young children, Onsae performed her own version of several baby-sitting songs. She accented her sweet, lilting voice with hand gestures.

Sheena Hale, the daughter of Albert and Regina Pinto Hale, was to be honored as First Runner Up to Onsae. Hale is an eleventh grader at Sinagua High School. She was escorted by her father, a former Navajo Nation President. She chose her father for this honor, “because your father is the only man you can ever really trust.”

Hale performed a comedic sing-along as her modern talent/skill. For her traditional performance, Hale prefaced a basket dance by explaining the symbolism of the so-called “wedding basket.”

Cynthia Freeman is an honor roll student of Coconino High School. Her parents are Nelson and Alice Freeman of Cameron. She was escorted by Tyler Johnson, who was introduced as a cousin-brother from Kayenta.

Freeman’s modern performance was the reading of a poem she had penned in both French and English. She also introduced the four sacred mountains, including their Navajo names, and performed a mountain song.

Escorted by Arnold Eddy, Brunlissa Williams is tenth grader attending Coconino High School. Her mother is Louise Barlow of Leupp. An avid horseback rider and musician, Williams performed “Legend of Fort Apache” as her modern talent/skill. She also demonstrated the grinding of corn using a traditional mano and metate.

Entertainment throughout the competition provided a lively distraction to the anxious audience. The Apache Crown Dancers of Cradleboard Elementary School in Whiteriver, Arizona. Comprised of five boys, six girls and three adult drummers, these young dancers performed between the modern and traditional skill/talent demonstrations.

As the scorekeepers tallied the points, LaTamara Barlow (Miss Dook’o’osliid 2001-2002), Memarie Tsosie (Miss Western Navajo Teen 2001-2002) and Shamaray Yazzie (Miss Indian Youth of Flagstaff 2001-2002) performed for the audience.

Barlow performed a song in Navajo about her mother. “I respect and love my mother very much, and I hope you guys do, too,” she said. She also dedicated a song about Iwo Jima to the terrorism victims of September 11. She finished her performance with a peyote song.

Tsosie sang in her own beautiful, powerful voice, while Yazzie performed a dance.

In the end, Jessica Onsae was named Native American Youth Ambassador 2001-2002. Judging by her performance, she will fill the duties of her title beautifully.


     Maps by Travel

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