TUBA CITY, Ariz. - For five days in September it is Tuba City School District's Native American Week, which celebrates and enhances student self-esteem by featuring Hopi, Navajo and San Juan Southern Paiute language, culture and heritage.
Week long activities offer students and community members the opportunity to participate in tribal social dancing and tribal song, share and prepare traditional native foods, participate in clan runs, and listen to lectures on traditional art forms from both the Hopi and Navajo tribe's cultural preservation programs.
This year, newly crowned Miss Navajo 2014-15 McKeon Dempsey made an appearance to a packed house of students, staff and community members on Sept. 19.
The crowd warmly received the new Miss Navajo at Warrior Pavilion. Dempsey visited the district most of the day presenting at Tuba City Primary and Eagles Nest Intermediate School in the morning, and at both Nizhoni Accelerated Academy and Tuba City High.
"I have only been wearing this crown for two weeks and this is one of my first major public appearances at the Western Navajo agency area for your schools," Dempsey said. "I am deeply honored to be here today to share some of my own personal cultural background with you and I encourage all of you to remember how special you are."
Dempsey encouraged the students to take pride and care in their own culture - tribal and non-tribal.
"You all have so many special gifts," she said. "Listen to your parents, your grandparents and your teachers. It's on your shoulders to learn here at school so you can use that education to move you forward in your personal and professional life. You must do well. I remind you to take advantage of these excellent teachers and mentors who are here with you today in what they are trying to teach and show you.
"Remember that as Natives, we have prayers in everything we do, we pray in what we carry and our everyday actions, our lives are prayers. Pray everyday, for strength, understanding and kindness. I'm so proud to see so many happy young faces today, so eager to learn and then go onto college and universities and become responsible adults. I hope I can serve as a living example of doing your very best and wanting the best for our people. Thank you so much, ahee'hee for inviting me here today to be with you."
The new Miss Navajo also shared with the students that she graduated from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting and photography in 2012.
She then sang a song that she wrote herself. The students enthusiastically enjoyed the presentation.
School adminstrators presented cultural awards to students during the week including to Stewart Koiyayumptewa for Hopi language, Edward Whitethorne for Horsemanship, Thomas Yellowhair for Basket and Mocassin making, Mae Peshlakai for Native Foods, James Peshlakai - Navajo Tribal ways, Cecelia Joe for Rug Weaving, Leigh Kuwanwisiwma - Hopi Life and Language, Florian Johnson -Sweatlodge. James Bilagody for traditional songs and Eli Secody for writing traditional songs.
Parents and community members were invited to be with their students during the cultural activities in all seven of Tuba City's schools.
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