Billy earns the Miss Navajo Nation title
By Natasha Kaye Johnson
Jocelyn Billy of Chinle holds back tears of joy as she is crowned
Miss Navajo Nation 2006-07 by Miss Navajo Nation 2005-06 Rachel James
at the 60th Annual Navajo Nation Fair in Window Rock on Saturday night.
Billy graduated from NAU and was crowned Miss Indian NAU while attending
school there [Photo by Matt Hinshaw/Independent]
WINDOW ROCK Each year, one Dine woman is given the
honor to become one of the most distinguished and well-known ambassadors
of the Navajo Nation.
This year, that honor was given to Jocelyn Billy, 24, of Chinle, when
she was crowned Miss Navajo Nation 2006-07 at the Dean Jackson Memorial
Rodeo Arena on Saturday night.
"It's finally a dream come true," said Billy, her voice still
filled with awe and excitement on Sunday evening.
Only a day into her reign, Billy's Saturday evening and Sunday were eventful,
with people anxious to shake her hand and have their picture taken with
"My breath was taken away," recalls Billy, after Cassandra Bitsuie,
23, of Steamboat was announced first runner-up.
With only four women competing in this year's competition, Billy felt
Bitsuie was her strongest contender and knew when Bitsuie was announced
as runner-up, that she would be crowned the new Miss Navajo. Ironically,
Billy and Bitsuie are good friends and former college roommates.
Billy's clans are the Within His Cover Clan born for the Bitter Water
Clan. Her maternal clan is Salt People Clan and her paternal clan is Near
the Mountain People Clan.
Since she was a young girl, Billy recalls seeing former Miss Navajos and
aspired to one day wear the same crown.
"I always wondered how they related to me," said Billy.
Because Miss Navajos are required to be familiar with Navajo teachings
and culture, Billy always viewed Miss Navajo as being quite similar to
the deities of the Navajo people.
"They were the modern day Changing Woman," said Billy, adding
that she wanted the opportunity to carry out those same duties as other
Miss Navajos had.
Billy will be moving into her new office immediately and will soon begin
to form her platform. Already, Billy is contemplating how she will begin
to make a positive change and impact for the people, especially the youth.
"I really believe our Navajo youth are very troubled because they're
not motivated because they don't know the history of the people,"
To to address this issue, Billy wants to begin promoting self-esteem through
storytelling, songs, and traditional teachings. Billy feels that if Navajo
youth knew more about these teachings, they would have more pride and
a better understanding of who they are. As a result, she feels that youth
would then be able to progress and begin to achieve great things.
"We need to get out there and revitalize our teachings," said
For her traditional talent, Billy wrote an original song in Navajo, and
for her traditional skill, talked about corn grinding and sang a corn
grinding song. For the modern talent category, Billy talked about the
importance of communication and played the "Star Spangled Banner"
on her flute.
Billy is no stranger to pageantry. She was Miss Ceremonial 2003-04, Miss
Indian NAU 2002-03, Miss Chinle High School 1998-99, Miss Central Teen
1995-96, and second attendant for Miss Indian Arizona 2005-06.
And like most pageant queens, Billy has a formal education.
In 2005, Billy received a dual degree from Northern Arizona University,
with a BA in political science and a BS in applied Indian studies. Eventually,
she plans to attend ASU School of Indian Law to become a lawyer.
‘I was bestowed a blessing’
By Jocelyn Billy
Miss Navajo Nation 2006-07
Yá’át’ééh I am Within His Cover People Clan, born for the Bitterwater People Clan. My maternal grandfathers are the Salt People Clan and my paternal grandfathers are the Near the Mountain/Towering House People Clan.
I am 24 years old and am an only child. My loving parents are Helen and James Billy who reside in Chinle, Ariz. My maternal grandmother is Mae Clitso of White Post, Ariz., and my grandfather is the late Eddie Clitso of Kayenta, Ariz.
My paternal grandmother is Sarah Billy of Chinle and my grandfather is the late Woody Billy of Chinle.
My family is the foundation of my being as a young Diné woman originally from White Post, near Shonto, Ariz., but I have resided in Chinle for my entire life.
As a 2000 graduate of Chinle High School, I enrolled at Northern Arizona University soon after. In the spring of 2005, I walked in the commencement ceremonies with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a bachelor’s degree in applied indigenous studies.
Saturday evening, Sept. 9, I was bestowed a blessing as I was crowned Miss Navajo Nation 2006-07. This moment was one I had been patiently waiting for since I was a child. Throughout my childhood I have watched the former Miss Navajo Nations complete their reigns with grace and dignity. Now it is my opportunity to do the same.
As the new Miss Navajo Nation, I will be an advocate and ambassador of Navajo Nation initiatives. I would like to be a cultural bridge between cultural identity and contemporary times for my Diné People.
I vied for the title of Miss Navajo Nation to achieve a lifetime goal and express my passion to help my Diné people and serve as their representative.
As a young person, I hope to unite people for a common goal: Prepare ourselves as Diné leaders. We have to be prepared to carry on our language and traditions. I feel we have not used all of our resources as Diné people. Past leaders have tapped into areas of growth we have yet to.
The knowledge of our history will allow us to move our people forward with power and strength and the knowledge of the future will bring about hope and sense of pride and dignity for our Diné people.
As a representative of the people, I want to be an initiator and contributor to this movement. Miss Navajo has the grace and love within her to help all her people attain peace and courage to attain sovereignty for themselves, family, community, and nation.
I will serve as a daughter, sister, aunt, friend, counselor and role model to my people. My hopes are to be an example of humbleness and love our elders ask us to be, to be a voice for my people that addresses their barriers, successes, needs and wants for themselves and loved ones.
As an educated woman I will do all I possibly can with the knowledge and resources I have to promote the well-being of my Diné people.
My role will be to continue the works of Miss Navajo as a compassionate, graceful woman who exemplifies the essence of a beautiful Diné person in the presence of all peoples.
Thank you to my entire family, community members and the great Navajo Nation for all your support, teachings and the opportunity to serve as Miss Navajo Nation 2006-07.
New Miss Navajo dives into duties
By Annie Greenberg
WINDOW ROCK - After a grueling week spent competing in the Miss Navajo Nation pageant, the new titleholder, Jocelyn Billy, can finally look forward to some down time - for about 10 seconds.
Already her schedule is jam-packed, just the way she likes it.
Billy is Bit’ahnii (Folded Arms Clan), born for Tó Dích’íi’nii (Bitter Water Clan). Her maternal grandfather is Áshiihí (Salt Clan) and her paternal grandfather is Dziltl’ahnii (Near the Mountain Clan). She is the daughter of Helen and James Billy of Chinle, and granddaughter of Mae and Eddie Clitso and Sarah and Woody Billy.
The 24-year-old was born and raised in Chinle, where she graduated from Chinle High School in 2000. From there she went to Northern Arizona University, graduating in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a bachelor’s degree in applied indigenous studies.
When she was younger, Billy looked to former Miss Navajos like Dolly Manson, now a Ph.D., and Karletta Chief, working on a Ph.D., as inspiration for her to make education a priority in her life.
Billy said after her reign, she hopes to go to law school at Arizona State University and study Indian law. Then she hopes to help her people, be it by becoming a legal advisor for an Indian tribe or nonprofit organization geared towards helping Native Americans, or by starting a nonprofit of her own to empower tribal governments.
“A lot of leaders now in Window Rock are not educated to handle grants, resolutions, memorandums of understanding, memorandums of agreement,” said Billy, a reference to the tribe’s reliance on federal grant money for 80 percent of its operating budget.
“I really think they are very educated with knowledge of traditional ways, but we need to help each other become aware of Western ways because that’s the only way we can effectively manage ourselves,” she added.
Billy credits her familiarity with Navajo and Western culture with making her the strongest candidate for Miss Navajo Nation this year. The competition was Billy’s chance to demonstrate her proficiency in both worlds.
For her contemporary skill, she chose communication, specifically motivational speaking, something she has practiced for years in high schools and for nonprofit youth programs.
Billy said the importance of communication could not be underestimated, and pointed to lack of communication on the Navajo Nation as a cause for many of its social ills.
She played “The Star-Spangled Banner” on the clarinet, as a tribute to the armed forces, for her contemporary talent.
Her traditional skill was to grind corn, as an example of a woman’s traditional role in Navajo society. She laid out the tools given women by the Holy Ones - a rock brush, mixing sticks, woven basket, gourd, loom, goat skin, to name a few - and ground white, yellow, blue, and mixed corn while singing a corn grinding song.
For her traditional talent, Billy sang a poem she had written in Navajo about how a woman should dress, emphasizing that from the way she wears her hair to her moccasins, a woman should always walk in beauty.
To Chief, who is on the board of directors of the newly formed Miss Navajo Nation Council Inc., Billy exemplified what a Navajo woman should be.
“For the past 54 years, Miss Navajo Nation has represented the enduring qualities of First Woman, White Shell Woman, and Changing Woman to remind the Navajo people of their cultural origin and the importance of Navajo culture, language, and tradition,” said Chief.
“(Miss Navajo Nation Council Inc.) was very pleased with the selection of this year’s Miss Navajo Nation and feel like she has the energy, enthusiasm, humility and respect to complete a successful reign,” she added. “Personally, I see the sincere warmth and love in her heart that she will share with youth and elders.”
Billy said she wants the focus of her reign to reconnect the people with Miss Navajo.
“Over the past few years, the Miss Navajos have been doing a good job - but doing it silently,” she said. “They missed out on communicating with the people what they were doing for the people.”
Her desire to communicate with the people was evident from the first few minutes after her coronation. In her acceptance speech she said she would proudly shake the hand of anyone who came up to her, and encouraged people to do so.
Billy said she is now realizing the tremendous respect the Diné people have for Miss Navajo.
She recounted that after the coronation was over, she took off her crown and sash and left the arena - only to be asked by people who wanted to see their Miss Navajo in all her glory to put them back on, which she did.
“I’m very humbled by my people, even in the short time since I’ve been crowned,” Billy said.
“To see that they’ve extended their hands to me in greetings, that I have their support…makes me hope I can continue to take care of my people,” she added.