Riding with a traditional passion

GANADO - With enthusiasm and a passion for horses, Sharmayne Edgewater will ride as Miss Indian Rodeo through the 2006/07 rodeo season. Not only will she compete in her signature event of barrel racing, but also undertake the responsibility of promoting the Indian National Rodeo outside the arena.

According to Edgewater, responsibility is a quality she learned as a child from her parents.

"My childhood was filled with responsibility and hard work," Edgewater said. "I believe that the teaching starts at home and I had a good example of my parents."

Edgewater, 20, was born and raised in Lower Greasewood and now lives in Ganado where she substitute teaches in kindergarten through grade 12 for the Ganado Unified School District. She enjoys her position, and after being crowned Miss Indian Rodeo is able to use her teaching position in new ways.

"Everyday, I see many students who come from different lifestyles, some harsher than the others. As Miss Indian Rodeo, I will be a positive influence on the younger and older generations and an outstanding role model," she said.

Edgewater was selected as Miss Indian Rodeo in October at the 2006 Indian National Finals Rodeo held at the Apache Gold Casino Rodeo arena in San Carlos. The event was attended by rodeo enthusiasts from throughout North America, creating a diverse pool of Miss Indian Rodeo competitors.

Edgewater speaks fondly of the three other Miss Indian Rodeo contestants: Leanna Billie, Seminole, from Florida; Vonna Victor, Navajo, from Shiprock, N.M. and now living in Albuquerque, N.M.; and Karri Holyan, Navajo, from Tucson.

"I remember LeAnna for her horsemanship and sense of humor…. I remember Vonna because she loved kids and is majoring in elementary ed and Karri I remember because she was pretty, could sing and is really into the church rodeo, or the cowboy church," Edgewater said.

For her platform, Edgewater is promoting domestic violence and substance abuse awareness and education.

She chose to address these issues because of the increasing prevalence of problems related to substance abuse and domestic violence, she said.

"The more I look around, the more I see people doing what they're no supposed to be doing," she said.

In the essay she wrote as part of the application to be Miss Indian Rodeo Edgewater stated, "I swear if it was not for rodeos and ranch life, I would have been in and out of trouble during my teenage years. It was the hard work and big responsibilities that kept my mind straight and focused on other things besides the bad things in life."

Edgewater explained her understanding of the importance of horses in her traditional Navajo culture.

"Native Americans believe that horses have healing powers and that you have to take care of them before you take care of yourself," she said. "We believe that all animals serve a purpose in life."

Edgewater said that by teaching children the tenets integral to working with horses, they will grow to be proud of themselves and their culture.

"I want to encourage a lot of younger people because their mind is like a sponge-they'll suck up anything. Rodeo teaches them responsibility, hard work, endurance, integrity, character, ethics, dedication and the willingness to make a difference," she said.

Edgewater also detailed the importance of rodeo to young women. "I want to show how good the Indian National Rodeo is for girls-to hold a prestigious title," she said.

Edgewater is one of five children, daughter of Luke and Caroline Edgewater. She is of the Coyote Pass Clan, born for the Reed People. Her paternal clan is the Towering House Clan and her maternal clan is the Edgewater Clan.

Following her current term as Miss Indian National Rodeo, Edgewater hopes to pursue criminal justice at the Arizona State University or Northern Arizona University.

Edgewater is available for public appearances and to discuss the Indian National Rodeo. She can be reached at home or by email.

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