Student Supports Her Culture While Continuing Her Education

Representing an entire set of cultures can be a daunting task, especially when balancing travel time with homework and research projects. But Jaymee Moore, the recently-selected Miss Indian Arizona, has been taking the challenge in stride.

Miss Indian Arizona Contestants 270x180 Miss Indian Arizona Crowns Winner and Celebrates 50 YearsMoore, a recent graduate who majored in applied indigenous studies and political sciences, grew up in Parker, Arizona, on the Colorado River Indian Reservation. She chose Northern Arizona University (NAU) because it was close to home and yet still provided a different environment than she grew up in. Moore says her family stressed the importance of education at a young age, and following in the footsteps of her grandmother, she’s the second member of her family to attend NAU.

Moore says growing up in a tight-knit community taught her not only the importance of cultural heritage, but the culture’s future prosperity and growth. She took that knowledge when applying for the Miss Indian Arizona Pageant, an event sponsored by the Miss Indian Arizona Association that awards the winner with a $4,000 scholarship.

The competition allows for only one competitor from each tribal community. Moore knew that other participants may focus on their own cultural backgrounds and felt that emphasizing the importance of what the future holds could set her apart from her peers. Her future goals include attending graduate school and working for or running her own business in order to give back to her community.

“I recognized that I could express my culture, but could also utilize my education and use it to be able to run my own organization someday,” Moore says. “That became my key concept.  I knew that I could do more than just sing, speak, and dance. I could actually help the Miss Indian Arizona Association grow through my work within each tribal community.”

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Miss Indian Arizona Crowns Winner and Celebrates 50 Years

While some years have felt like two-steps-forward, one-step-back, members of the Miss Indian Arizona Association keep pushing forward with a strong will as printed in this year’s scholarship program: “The challenges of our journey over the last 50 years, sometimes in the face of insurmountable odds, have only increased our efforts to enhance and improve recognition of the contributions of young Indian women.”

Miss Indian Arizona Contestants 270x180 Miss Indian Arizona Crowns Winner and Celebrates 50 Years

It was half a century ago that the Miss Indian Arizona program was introduced during Indian Day activities at the Arizona State Fair. The annual event stayed at the fairgrounds for five years until 1967 when the Arizona Republic newspaper graphically reported the program had been “scalped due to the lack of wampum.”

The Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona tried sponsorship for a while, as did the Colorado River Indian Tribes and the nonprofit Irataba Society until interested parties established the Miss Indian Arizona Association and the scholarship program began in 2000 with a focus on academics and community service.

In those intervening years, between 600 and 700 young Native American women have participated in the program—with 55 of them eventually holding the Miss Indian Arizona title. While all titleholders have represented Arizona Native American culture, heritage, and spirituality at it’s finest, three have gone on to hold the Miss Indian America title as well including Maxine Norris, Tohono O’odham, in 1973; Gracie Welsh, Mohave-Chemehuevi, Colorado River Indian Tribe, in 1977; and Vivian Juan Saunders, Tohono O’odham, in 1981.

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Miss Indian Arizona Association seeks past titleholders

Arizona Native Scene April 2011T he Miss Indian Arizona Association is looking for nine Navajo women to help celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Miss Indian Arizona Scholarship Program. Not just any nine women, though, the nine who have worn the crown.

According to Denise Homer, executive director, the program started in 1961 through the Arizona State Fair Commission and has operated continuously since then, and there are a total of 55 previous titleholders who are invited for special recognition at this year's event.

The association plans to highlight the titleholders at a parade and banquet scheduled Oct. 7 at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Chandler, Ariz.

"It's our way of trying to honor those women," Homer said.

The Miss Indian Arizona contest is first and foremost a scholarship program, with the winner receiving a $4,000 scholarship in addition to the title.

A new winner will be named Oct. 8 at the Chandler Center for the Arts. The pre-show will feature special presentations by former titleholders.

Homer said she has been able to locate four of the nine Navajos she's seeking - Esther Pooley (1967-69), Dolly Manson (1982-83), Evereta Thinn (2007-08) and the current titleholder, Sweetie Cody.

But she is asking for help to contact the other five: Carol Ann Yazzie (1956-66), Delphine Curley (1974-75), Madgelina Begay (1975-76), Lena Mose (1977-78) and Theresa Benally (1987-88).

If you have information about any of them, please call Denise Homer at 480-306-4599.

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Miss Indian Arizona 50th Anniversary happening this year

posted April 17, 2011 by Arizona Native Scene, originally printed in Arizona Native Scene, Vol. 17 No. 3 April, 2011

Arizona Native Scene April 2011
Celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, the Miss Indian Arizona Scholarship Program will highlight the former titleholders at a Banquet which will be held on October 7th. The Scholarship Program will be held at the Chandler Center for the Arts, Chandler, AZ on October 8th. The Pre-Show begins at 6:30 pm and will feature special presentations by former Miss Indian Arizona titleholders.

Sweetie Cody, the reigning Miss Indian Arizona will be featured as she crowns the 50th successor. Sweetie is of Diné descent, a graduate of Winslow High School and currently attends Mesa Community College. Her RoyalCourt includes, Jessica Ruiz, 1st Attendant and Kelly Rose Sehongva, 2nd Attendant.

The Miss Indian Scholarship Program is handled under the auspices of the Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona through the establishment of the Miss Indian Arizona Association, a non-profit charitable group made up of Indian women from all walks of life representing many tribes. Many others lend assistance and generously contribute their time, effort and finances year after year in order to promote the program. The Association is headed up by Executive Director, Denise Homer, President Patty Ferguson Bohnee and Vice-President Daris Laffoon.

The Miss Indian Arizona Association strives to produce a specialized, colorful, entertaining and educational program to the general public. The dress, songs, dance, stories, wisdom, humor and the living essence of the Indian people of Arizona is brought to life by the participants in the program.

Miss Indian Arizona serves as an Ambassador of the Indian and non-Indian people of the State of Arizona, she travels throughout the state, visiting cities, reservations, schools, hospitals and special events sharing her knowledge and customs.

Over the past 50 years more than 600 young Indian women have participated in the program and 55 have held the Miss Indian Arizona title. Many of the title holders have gone on to hold titles as Miss Indian America, Miss Indian Nations and Miss Indian World but more importantly they have pursued leadership roles as Tribal Chairwomen, Vice-Chairwomen, President of the National Congress of American Indians, Tribal council members, tribal gaming officials, and careers as Educators, Recreational Directors, Civil Engineers, Tribal Judges, Doctors, Public Relation personnel and “MOMs”.

Statistics show the American Indian community suffers the highest dropout rate of any people in the United States. The goal of the Miss Indian Arizona Association is to increase the number and amount of educational scholarships it presents to participants in the program in order to meet the full yearly needs of a student.

To learn how to promote the Miss Indian Arizona Scholarship Program or for more information, contact Denise Homer at or visit the Miss Indian Arizona website at

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