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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


December 27, 2003 - Issue 103


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Navajo teen in spotlight for her Native American music debut win


by Jim Maniaci, Diné Bureau - Gallup Independent


Credits: photo - Marlena Begay

Marlena BegayWINDOW ROCK — The wife of a former tribal chairman announced Sunday she will spearhead the drive to form a fan club for a 19-year-old Navajo woman who won the top honor at the Native American Music Association's annual competition this year.

Wanda MacDonald, wife of former Chairman Peter MacDonald, joined her husband at the dinner in the Peterson Zah-Navajo Nation Museum-Library as about 80 relatives and friends honored Marlena Begay for her birthday and being the best of the five finalists in the new artists debut category of the NAMY's, modeled after the Grammys.

Begay, an Aztec, N.M., High School senior, was so overwhelmed that she devoted her entire speech to thanking everyone, including her parents and other relatives she is the youngest of 11 children as well as her music producer and band.

Her album, entitled simply "Marlena," was among 30 entered in the sixth annual competition, according to Murphy Platero, whose small new company produced the album. Begay signed with his firm three years ago, he said.

According to Platero, it is a monumental achievement to have a Christian gospel album win such a prestigious award. Begay's success also means many doors will be opened.

Speaking as an elder statesman, Peter MacDonald said he appreciated being invited because Begay's abilities and talents "give credit not only to her parents and her relatives, but the Navajo Nation as well."

MacDonald added, "We have many brilliant and talented Navajo young people and need to recognize their achievements and success. It's one way to build a nation; it's one way to succeed in life. All of us have children and would like to see them succeed in life."

The long-time Diné leader admitted, "I love to hear Marlena sing."

She sang at his homecoming reception when he returned to Tuba City after his release in January from a federal prison in Texas when Bill Clinton commuted his 14-year sentence at its mid-point during the last hours of his presidency.

He said, "When I came back, she gave me a boost to get going back into life," adding that he wished his words to also be a boost for her.

"It's always wonderful to receive recognition from elders. But it's a lot more motivating to be recognized and honored by young people. That's why it was special for us to have her there with us in Tuba City," he added.

MacDonald also took note of Begay now being a role model and closed by leading the audience in singing "Happy Birthday" to her. She actually turned 19 on Dec. 12, her mother said.

Other special guests included her parents, Kee and Ella Begay, the Native American Veterans of the Vietnam War, Aaron Woods, Rex Redhair (the Navajo Elvis), Alesia Sullivan, (Kayenta) Miss Monument Valley High School Princess, who sang the "Star Spangled Banner" in Navajo, Consuela Chacon, Miss Navajo Area Native American Festival Princess, and Shermaine Begay of Greasewood Springs and a Holbrook High School senior, who is Miss Southwestern Navajo.

After the dinner the bands "State Line" and "Silver Wings" played in the auditorium.

Visit Marlena's website to learn more about her.

Marlena Begay

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