'I'm so happy that I ran': Cassie Frank named Ms. Indigenous San Juan College 2021-2022

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — After the applause and cheers died down, Cassie Frank stood center stage as Ms. Indigenous San Juan College 2021-2022 after winning the title on Sept. 30.

"It's a great opportunity and I'm so happy that I ran because it's going to be a heck of a journey," Frank said after the pageant.

Frank is Diné and majoring in business administration at the college.

She won the title after competing for two days at the college's Connie Gotsch Theatre in Farmington. Contestants demonstrated contemporary and traditional talent skills on Sept. 30.

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Cassie Frank, Diné and a business administration major, won the title of Ms. Indigenous San Juan College on Sept. 30 during the pageant at the college's Connie Gotsch Theatre in Farmington.

For the contemporary talent, the 19-year-old talked about jewelry making. She did a presentation about Navajo women's attire for the traditional talent.

"I hope to motivate people, encourage them that they can still continue school and promote my school," Frank said.

The role of Ms. Indigenous San Juan College is filled by a current student and they represent Native and Indigenous cultures, specifically their culture, as well as representing the college, Byron Tsabetsaye, director of the college's Native American Center, said.

At center, Miss Farmington High 2020-2021 Savana Juanico takes a selfie with titleholders from the area and contestants in the Ms. Indigenous San Juan College 2021-2022 pageant on Sept. 30 at the college's Connie Gotsch Theatre in Farmington.

The center coordinates the pageant and supports the titleholder's work but does not select the winner.

Instead, a panel of judges from various professions and backgrounds are chosen by the center to determine the titleholder.

Jessica Greymountain, Diné and Hunkpapa Lakota, was first runner-up and Margaret Kirk, Diné, was second runner-up.

Outgoing Ms. Indigenous San Juan College Marie J. Nickoli held the title since September 2019.

Ms. Indigenous San Juan College 2021-2022 contestant Jessica Greymountain performs a Navajo basket dance during the traditional talent competition on Sept. 30 at the college's Connie Gotsch Theatre in Farmington.

Nickoli, who is Koyukon Athabascan, served two years after she accepted the offer to extend the term due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"I'm excited for the next lady, to see what she can accomplish," Nickoli said.

In addition to the competitive categories, the pageant had contests for the audience that centered on traditional attire, best long hair for boys, and best tsiiyéél, a traditional hair bun.

They also observed a moment of silence to recognize the National Day of Remembrance for Indian Boarding Schools to honor survivors and to remember those who did not return from boarding schools.

The Ms. Indigenous San Juan College 2021-2022 crown was beaded by former student Verrona Cardinal, who has done crowns for the pageant for several years.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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