Officials mum on pageant cancellation

By Shondiin Silversmith
Navajo Times

CROWNPOINT, August 2nd, 2012

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his year would have been the 25th annual crowning of Miss Eastern Navajo, but the two contestants who were vying for the title didn't even get to step on stage after the Eastern Navajo Agency Fair Board decided July 27 to cancel the pageant.

There was no forewarning of the decision, instead the stage was set and the judges were present. But as clouds began to gather overhead and rain started to sprinkle, a private meeting was held between the judges and fair board. The meeting adjourned about an hour later with no public announcement about why the pageant was not taking place.

This reporter was informed in a short while that the pageant was cancelled and no one was allowed to talk about it. Doris Clyde, pageant coordinator, said she could not comment on why the pageant was cancelled. She refused to comment further but said it was the board's decision. Jennifer Morgan, the fair board secretary, said that the only person available to comment on the matter was Alvin Smith, the fair president. Smith did not respond to repeated phone calls and messages.

According to the criteria listed on, pageant applicants must be female, between the ages of 18 and 25, at least half Navajo, a high school graduate or have a GED, never married and no children, must speak some Navajo and must commit to one full year of service as Miss Eastern Navajo.

Contestant Lenell Francisco, 19, of Prewitt, N.M. met all of those qualifications and said she felt hurt by the unexplained cancellation. "You work so hard for something you really want and someone can just simply take it away from you," she said. "It just wasn't fair."

Lenell first started competing in pageants at age eight when she won her first title, Baca Community Princess 2001-2002. She said that being able to compete in pageants is a part of who she is.

Lenell said her pageant influence is thanks to her grandmother Nina Largo. She said it was through her knowledge in both Navajo and English that inspired her to represent the Eastern Agency as Miss Eastern Navajo with the same integrity her grandmother had.

"I hope to represent the people, families, elders and children of the Eastern Agency of the Navajo Nation with a level of propriety, value and integrity that will be ensuring to all," Lenell said in her essay submission for the pageant. "I intend to dedicate this title of Miss Eastern Navajo, solely to the progression and service of my people."

Efforts to contact the second contestant for comment were unsuccessful.

Francisco's uncle, Kenneth Peterson, was present at the time of the announcement, and said Smith had not provided any reason for canceling the pageant.

Lenora Francisco, Lenell's mother, said she was in shock to learn of the cancellation. She said the decision was very hurtful.

Peterson said Friday that the family continued to pursue an answer from the fair board, approaching the members three times that day, but were stonewalled.

Leona Largo, Lenell's aunt, said the family wouldn't be making a big deal out of it except they had invested a lot in helping her niece compete. "All the money, all the clothes prepared for her, all the donations that we had, it was a lot of effort from everyone," Largo said.

Lenell had eight outfits ready, and most of her family traveled out to see her perform. "We don't want this to happen to any other young ladies. This was absurd, a little embarrassing and disgraceful. We're proud to be a part of the Eastern Agency and we just wanted a chance to represent it," Peterson said on behalf of the family.

Should the board reschedule the pageant at a later date, Lenell said she would refuse to compete because of the treatment she has received.

Lenell, who is Tsé Nahabilnii (Sleep Rock Clan), born for Kin Yaa'áanii (Towering House Clan), said will continue competing in other pageants across the Navajo Nation with hopes of one day being crowned Miss Navajo.