‘Involved since I was in the womb’

New Miss Ceremonial’s views, outlook reflect activist mother

Young woman places silver-and-turquoise crown atop head of young lady, while ceremonial dancer in headdress watches.

Navajo Times | Donovan Quintero
Newly crowned 2017-2018 Miss Gallup Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial Zunneh-bah Martin smiles as the crown is placed on her by Lindsay Paige Sandoval Friday night at Red Rock Park in Church Rock.


The 2017-2018 Miss Gallup Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial has organized demonstrations on her campus, shook hands with the U.S. president, and took supplies to Standing Rock — twice.

Her name is Zunneh-bah Martin, 20, from Twin Lakes, New Mexico. She is Sleeping Rock Clan, born for Mexican, Aztec and Mayan ancestry. Her paternal grandfather is Edge Water Clan, and her maternal grandfather is of the Modoc Tribe.

“I tell people, I’ve been involved with social justice issues, Indigenous issues, environmental issues since I was in the womb,” Martin said with a smile and laugh. “My parents are involved with a lot of activism.”

Her father is Bobby Martin, production manager for the Navajo Times, and her mother is Sonlatsa “Sunshine” Jim-Martin. Her mother is an activist and has been involved with social justice work.

“My mom started the first Martin Luther King (Jr.) marches and events here in Window Rock on the Navajo Reservation,” Martin said. “She’s been marching since I was in the womb.”

Martin is a junior at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado, working on Southwest studies with an emphasis in film studies and Indigenous studies.

“At my school, our Native American students’ population is the minority of the minorities,” Martin said.

As a freshman, she joined the Native American Student Union and during her sophomore year became co-chair.

“I don’t get the luxury of not having to always correct people, always having to deal with this oppression,” Martin said. “Other non-Natives, they don’t know what it’s like to live like this with all the issues we face on our reservations.”

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Categories: Culture

About Author

Pauly Denetclaw

Pauly Denetclaw is Meadow People born for Towering House People. She was raised in Manuelito and Naschitti, New Mexico. She was the co-recipient of the Native American Journalist Association's 2016 Richard LaCourse Award for Investigative Reporting. Denetclaw is currently finishing her degree in multimedia journalism from the University of New Mexico - Main. Denetclaw covers a range of topics including genetic research, education, health, social justice issues and small businesses. She loves coffee, writing and being with her family. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Her handle is @pdineclah