Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tonight on PBS

As part of Native American Heritage Month the PBS show Independent Lens will be premiering the documentary Miss Navajo at 10pm eastern time.

For the past 50 years, the Miss Navajo Nation pageant has celebrated Navajo women and traditional values, language and inner beauty. Held over a five-day period at the annual Navajo Nation Fair, contestants are required to showcase skills that are crucial to Navajo daily life, including sheep butchering, fry-bread making and rug weaving. Through interviews with new and previous pageant contestants, Miss Navajo reveals the importance of cultural preservation and the meaning of being a woman in Navajo culture.

Crystal Frazier, a twenty-one-year-old Navajo woman, lives on the reservation in Table Mesa, New Mexico. Living in a house without running water, Crystal helps care for her family’s livestock, makes a weekly trip to the well for water and does a share of the cooking. A tomboy and former high school basketball champ, Crystal is confronted with a new set of challenges when she decides to compete in the 2005–06 Miss Navajo pageant. She acknowledges her own shyness and says that participating in the Miss Navajo contest would probably be a good experience. Miss Navajo follows Crystal’s journey leading up to the competition, while former Miss Navajos share their own memories of the pageant and what it meant to them. Each previously crowned “queen” also experienced life on the reservation and faced the challenges of working as a leader in the preservation of their culture.

Conceived as a “celebration of womanhood” by filmmaker Billy Luther—whose mother, Sarah Johnson Luther, was Miss Navajo Nation 1966–67—Miss Navajo offers a different take on what it means to be beautiful, exploring tradition in Diné, or Navajo, culture through one woman’s quest for the Miss Navajo Nation crown.


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