FARMINGTON — A Navajo Preparatory School graduate was crowned Miss Indian World 2013 on Saturday.
For Kansas Begaye, 24, the second time was the charm.
Begaye, who grew up in Waterflow, tried out to be Miss Indian World about five years ago. She did not get the crown that year, but she did this year at the Gathering of the Nations in Albuquerque.
The Gathering of the Nations is an annual pow wow that attracts Native Americans from across the country. The crowning of Miss Indian World coincides with the gathering each year.
"I cried. I really did cry when I got the crown," Begaye said in a phone interview Monday.
Begaye is Diné, or Navajo. She is from the Red Bottom Clan, born for the Many Hogans Clan. Her maternal grandfather is from the Yucca and Banana Clan, and her paternal grandparents are from the Red Streak into Water Clan.
She competed against 16 other Native American women from various tribes in four separate areas: tribal knowledge, dancing ability, public speaking and personality assessment. She also received an award for doing the best in the personality assessment.
Begaye, who now lives in Rio Rancho, said she had dreamed about the moment since she was four years old, when she first saw the Miss Indian World at the time.
"I remember asking my parents, How do I get to be like that?'" Begaye said.
Since, Begaye has worked her way toward that goal. She attended elementary and middle school in Kirtland. In 2002, she became Miss Teen Indian World then graduated from Navajo Preparatory School three years later at 16.
She attended the University of New Mexico and received a bachelor's with a major in Native American studies and a minor in women's studies in 2011.
Now she works as a membership director for the New Mexico Dental Association in Albuquerque, though she is considering going back to school to get a master's degree and possibly study Native American law.
"We need to have more Native American dentists, lawyers, and doctors. That's what would make our indigenous cultures stronger," she said.
Begaye considers her platform to be founded on higher education and cultural preservation for native peoples, not just Native Americans.
"I would love to visit New Zealand and Alaska," Begaye said, explaining that she is particularly interested in the native cultures in both places.
As Miss Indian World, Begaye will be traveling to a number of indigenous cultures, both within the United States and outside of it. She will act as somewhat of a diplomat, for her tribe and other Native American tribes.
"I will probably change. I will learn a lot. I will be inspired," she said.
She does not yet know her schedule or itinerary for the next year, but she does know that she gets to go on a Disney cruise in the near future.
"It all finally paid off," she said.
Jenny Kane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4636. Follow her on Twitter @Jenny_Kane.