SHIPROCK — Dressed in a pink velvet dress with turquoise jewelry, DeYonna Gruber stepped on stage to share information about her family tree.

With photographs of relatives on a presentation board, Gruber explained her clans and how she researched the family tree by interviewing her grandparents.

Gruber was the first of four contestants to present her family history, followed by her talent, as part of the Miss Northern Navajo Nation pageant Thursday at the Phil L. Thomas Performing Arts Center in Shiprock. The winner will be crowned today.

During the talent segment, Robyn Barber, 18, of Little Water, talked about how she sewed her first pillow in the eighth grade. And then she used a needle to show the audience how to sew a pillow's opening.

Miss Northern Navajo contestant DeYonna Gruber works on a drawing during the talent competition for the Miss Northern Navajo Nation pageant Thursday at the
Miss Northern Navajo contestant DeYonna Gruber works on a drawing during the talent competition for the Miss Northern Navajo Nation pageant Thursday at the Phil L. Thomas Performing Arts Center in Shiprock. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

She said that since then her skill has advanced to include sewing blankets, which she gives as gifts to family members.

Barber is no strange to pageants. She is the current Miss Northern Navajo Nation Teen but decided to run for Miss Northern Navajo Nation because it is a "challenge."

At 25, Lindsey L. Benally decided it was time to compete after debating about it for years. Two factors swayed her decision: time and, since she is the third oldest of 26 grandchildren, she wanted to show her younger cousins that it is OK to go after their dreams.

"You wait for this day to come, then it goes by so fast," the Sanostee resident said while waiting to demonstrate her dancing skills.

Since the competition started Tuesday, the women have become fast friends and are supporting each other, said contestant Megan Badonie.

Badonie, 19, of Shiprock, kept her hen, Goldie, calm backstage on Thursday while waiting for her turn to talk about animal care as part of her talent.

She has been a member of the 4-H Club for 15 years, which has taught her about animals, as well as the Navajo culture.

"You're not running just to get a crown," she said, adding that wanting to see change in the community was another reason she chose to run.

Lynnelle Washburn, who coordinated the pageant with Victoria Yazzie, said the titleholder serves as the ambassador for the Northern Agency, which is the largest on the Navajo Nation.

For the current Miss Northern Navajo Nation Terilynn Bellison, the competition has been a mixture of emotions.

"I'm excited for them, but, at the same time, sad about giving up my title," the 23-year-old said.

As Bellison, who is from Montezuma Creek, Utah, watched from backstage, she wished whoever wins a good reign. She said that carrying the title is "being a role model for the little kids."

In addition to the Miss Northern Navajo Nation pageant, there is the Miss Northern Navajo Teen pageant, which has three contestants: Noelani Buck, Vanessa Sloan Lister and Kahlaya McKinney, all of Shiprock. The winner of that pageant will also be chosen today.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and nsmith@daily-times.com. Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.