WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – Miss Navajo Nation Shaandiin Parrish gets her inspiration from being a role model to her younger siblings.
She has one biological brother and one sister, but in the Navajo culture, cousins and clan relatives are considered just as close as brothers and sisters.
“When I think about my role as Miss Navajo, it’s exactly how I take care of my siblings,” she said, adding that the role revolves around what is expected from a woman in Navajo culture: from nurturing and caring for the family to passing on the traditional knowledge and keeping the fire going in a hogan.
Being a role model to younger generations is a huge responsibility she has embraced, and which expanded after she was crowned Miss Navajo Nation in September 2019, just months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the region, the Gallup Independent reported.
Parrish has served throughout the pandemic and has continued to fulfill her duties. Dressed in full Navajo regalia – velvet dress, moccasins, and silver and turquoise jewelry – she could be seen working on the frontlines with other Navajo leaders, distributing food to communities impacted by shutdowns and curfews.
When restrictions were lifted, she visited chapter houses and Navajo enterprises and offered support, attended community garden dedications, scholarship presentations for youth, and even sheep butchering events – where she helped butcher and clean sheep meat and cook meals for the community.
Most recently, Parrish visited the Navajo Nation Museum and presented officials with the 2016 Miss Navajo Nation crown to be stored at the museum for future generations. Parrish said the crown was purchased by the Office of Miss Navajo Nation and she made the decision to donate it to the museum for cultural preservation.
Navajo Nation Museum Director Manny Wheeler said he had been in contact with Parrish and was surprised to hear she wanted to donate the crown, which he hopes to put on exhibit in the near future, along with three other crowns that had been previously donated to the museum.
“I think it is a good practice,” he said about the crown donation. “Historically, Navajo people have been a matriarchal society. Miss Navajo is an ambassador of the Nation and represents that society.”
Parrish, who is from Kayenta, Arizona, earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Arizona State University in 2018. She sees the Miss Navajo Nation role as that of a public servant and has said she would like to go back to school to earn a law degree to continue serving her people.
The 69th annual Miss Navajo Nation Pageant was scheduled to begin Monday. While all events are closed to in-person viewing, virtual viewing platforms will be available on Facebook and Youtube.