Top A & E, culture, people stories of 2013

By Shondiin Silversmith
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, Dec. 26, 2013

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TOP: Navajo Singer and former Miss Navajo Nation Radmilla Cody was the first Native American to be nominated in the category since the Recording Academy eliminated the Best Native American Music Album in 2011. (Courtesy photo)

MIDDLE: With guitar in hand, legendary country music singer George Strait takes center stage and performs to cheering fans on April 5 during the “George Strait: The Cowboy Rides Away Tour” at the University of New Mexico’s Pit in Albuquerque. (Times photo – Donovan Quintero)

BOTTOM: Section leader with the Navajo Nation Band Roqui Jones talks about her flute, on Jan. 5 during a practice session in Tohatchi.

The Navajo Times has had a good year in the entertainment section, providing interesting stories on bands, people, community, culture and education for the Navajo people to enjoy. Stories like the production of the Navajo Star Wars to a tight roping daredevil. The Times selected the top arts and culture, entertainment, and people articles of 2013.

1. "'Star Wars' to be dubbed into Navajo."

The first indication that the Navajo Nation was making a Navajo version of the classic movie Star Wars: A New Hope, the Navajo Times was the first publication to break the news this past April. Since then, several articles following the Navajo Star Wars craze, from the auditions to the premiere, and most recently the DVD release. "Since its inception, the Star Wars Saga has been experienced and shared all over the world. Its timeless themes of good versus evil have resonated with cultures far and wide. The movies have been translated across multiple languages and Lucasfilm Ltd. is proud to have Navajo as its most recent addition," the company said in a prepared statement.

Naturally when something this iconic happens in entertainment for the Navajo Nation the Navajo Times is there to report on it, this is why it lands Navajo Star Wars as the number one entertainment stories of the year.

2. "Wallenda becomes first ever to tightrope walk LCR Gorge"

Nikolas "Nik" Wallenda, the most famous tightrope walker alive, was on the Navajo Nation this past summer to attempt his biggest stunt yet -- to walk across the Little Colorado River Gorge.

Wallenda said it was a walk he'd been preparing for his entire life and a walk he did without any safety tether attaching him to his line.

As he inched across the two-inch thick steel cable suspended 1,500 feet in the air, tailed by the shadow of death, under the blazing sunset, Wallenda made history by becoming the first person ever to cross the 70-million-year-old canyon in 22 minutes and 54 seconds with just a distant ribbon of the Little Colorado River beneath him.

"I'm incredibly grateful to the Navajo Nation for allowing me to accomplish my dream and the Discovery Channel for trusting in my abilities," Wallenda said.

Even though Wallenda accomplished the first ever tightrope walk across the Little Colorado River Gorge, several native protesters did rally up to protest the walk. Wallenda's tight rope was aired live on national television drawing attention to the beautiful Navajo Land, and the Navajo Times was on site to report about it, landing this story a spot on the list.

3. "The Cowboy Rides Away: King of Country George Strait bids farewell."

George Strait hosted his farewell tour this year, and made a stop at the University of New Mexico's The Pit to say good bye.

Hundreds of people packed into The Pit looking to say good bye to the King of Country, and needless to say, among the crowd were Native Americans. A total of 13,630 tickets were sold for Strait's final stop in Albuquerque, according to Associate Athletic Director for UNM Scott Dotson, for an arena that seats 17,100 people.

"They don't call him King George for nothing," said Crownpoint, N.M. native Andrea Jo Martin. "He played a lot of his old songs, that was just George right there."

Strait greeted fans with a smile and opened his show with, "Here for a Good Time," also the title of his 2011 album. Fans rose to their feet as he sang and strummed through his first song. They let out loud screams that echoed throughout the arena, which prompted Strait to respond: "Now I remember why I like Albuquerque."

The Navajo Times was lucky enough to review the show and share the experience with the Navajo people. This is why his story landed on this list.

4. "Putting a Sheen on Native Theater"

It is not often the Navajo Nation gets a visit from a high-end celebrity, but for several Navajo students out in Shiprock they got to actually act in a play with the one and only, Martin Sheen.

Sheen is known for his roles in "Apocalypse Now" and most recently "The Amazing Spider Man." He came to Shiprock as part of the Native Vision drama workshop held at The Phil Thomas Performing Arts Center.

Sheen said he wanted to come to Native Vision to help in any way he could, and he left with "a very great sense of satisfaction."

"I was nourished and blessed," he stated. "I couldn't ask for anything more. I look forward to coming back again."

Sheen's overall generosity to speak with the Navajo Times after the show and his praise to the youth that participated in the workshop has earned this story a spot on the list.

5. "Though no Grammy, academy recognition and nomination still an honor"

Navajo Singer and former Miss Navajo Nation Radmilla Cody was the first Native American to be nominated in the category since the Recording Academy eliminated the Best Native American Music Album in 2011.

Her album "Shi Keyah: Songs for the People" was nominated for Best Regional Roots Music, but lost to "The Band Courtbouillon" by Wayne Toups, Steve Riley and Wilson Savoy. Even though Cody did not win, she said being nominated is still a great honor.

"Whether you walk away announced as the winner or not, to even be recognized by the Academy as a nominee for the highest award in the music industry, I mean, that's what I kept in mind this entire process," Cody said in the original Times article.

6. "NavajoWOTD founder creates website to teach Diné language."

Byron Shorty developed the Navajo Word of the Day website as a way to teach and preserve people the Navajo language. He does this by posting a Navajo word and it's meaning on his social media sites and website daily. His first word was "Ya'at'eeh."

"I was just thinking of ways I could give back," said Shorty of his reason for creating NavajoWOTD.

He said being a young Navajo on the reservation, he has constantly heard leaders and elders say that young people need to give back to their communities.

The Times also followed Shorty when he sponsored, "Remembering Hweeldi," in which he walked to Bosque Redondo to commemorate the Long Walk. Through that walk he developed campaign in hopes of raising enough money to develop a state-of-the-art Navajo Language application, much like Rosetta Stone, but more affordable. Shorty's dedication to provide people with an outlet to learn the Navajo Language has earned him a slot on this year's list.

7. "Navajo Nation band to March in Inaugural Parade."

That's right the Navajo Nation Band marched in the inauguration pararde in front of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Band Director Darwyn Jackson said the inaugural committee saw the band perform in 2012 at the Red Earth Festival in Oklahoma, the America's Freedom Festival in Utah and the Sun Bowl Parade in Texas. The last time the Navajo Nation band marched the inaugural parade was in 1973 when President Richard Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew took office 40 years ago.

Seventy-seven band members participated in the paraded this past January. The Navajo Nation band's recent achievement of being in one of the nation's most prestigious parades has earned them a slot on the list.

8. "NTU launches celebration with Space Museum"

Navajo Technical University, formerly known as Navajo Technical College, is the first university on the Navajo Nation.

NTU brought the Traveling Space Museum during the celebration of its name change where people got to get their hands on some equipment used by astronauts, including the space toilet.

This past September was the first time the Traveling Space Museum ever traveled to Indian country.

"It's just been a thrill to see these kids anxious, we've seen this before but this is the first time we've ever been to any of the Indian reservations and it's a real honor to do that," said Ivor Dawson, founder and president of Traveling Space Museum, Inc., adding that this is possible the most remote area the museum has ever been to.

9. "The Monster Slayer project has everything in place but the dough"

The Monster Slayer project was a filmmaking idea that started in 2011 and has inched its way forward ever since.

The Monster Slayer Project is a contemporary visual retelling of the story of the Navajo Hero Twins, Monster Slayer and Born for Water. Within this project it explores who these figures might be in today's world, and what foes they might face. Recently they had a showing of the rough cut version of the film, showing people the progress they've made with the project.

"The rough cut is fascinating; it's very close to being complete," Producer Renaldo Chapman said, adding that they are just pending special effects funding, which is one of the reasons why they had the showing.

The Monster Slayer project is the first filming concept of its kind, and it's shot in Gallup, N.M., Oak Springs, Ariz. and Indian Wells.

"Monster Slayer is just a modern-day Navajo oral tradition translated into film. Navajos have always told stories, Monster Slayer being one of them," said Denny Spender, writer.

10. "Appearing on 'The Voice' a confidence-booster for Diné artist."

Having spent time on "The Voice," a vocal competition aired on NBC, Rudy Parris has gone from local spotlight to the national spotlight.

Since appearing on the show, Parris has been busy performing, songwriting, receiving endorsement deals from Gibson guitar and Bad Cat Amplifier, and planning the next step.

Parris, of Visalia, Calif., was a member of country singer Blake Shelton's team on Season 3 of The Voice but was eliminated from the competition during the Oct. 30, 2012 knockout round against Terry McDermott. Parris is of Navajo and Hispanic descent.

"This show showed me that I could be a national artist. That I was appealing to people ... that people were touched by what I do and who I am," he said.

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