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Nikeisha Kee will be freshman this fall at Piedra Vista High School

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FARMINGTON — Dressed in traditional Navajo attire, Nikeisha Kee smiled when she received the crown for the Farmington American Indian Ambassador in a ceremony today at the Farmington Indian Center.

The primary role of the ambassador is to represent the city and its Native American residents. Titleholders may choose to focus on a platform during their service.

Kee said she wants to advocate for the elderly, including raising awareness about neglect and abuse. The 14-year-old also wants to promote dialogue between community members.

"We are all family, and we should talk to one another. We can't ignore one another," Kee said.

Her call to public service is familiar to her parents, Delbert Pete and Jovita Kee.

"I know she can do this. It's something she has been doing since third grade, running in pageants," Jovita Kee said.

Their daughter held two titles while attending Ojo Amarillo Elementary School.

Kee will be a freshman at Piedra Vista High School this school year.

Among her academic goals is to be named valedictorian and to pursue a career in law enforcement.

She is Honágháahnii (One-Walks-Around Clan), born for Táchii'nii (Red Running Into the Water People Clan). Her maternal grandfather clan is 'Áshiihíí (Salt People Clan), and his paternal grandfather clan is Bit'ahnii (Folded Arms People).

During today's program, Kee sang a song in the Navajo language followed by a country song.

"I will do my best to support the Farmington community," she said.

Miss Northern Navajo Ariana Roselyn Young, who was Miss Indian Farmington 2011-2012, placed the crown on Kee's head.

"It is good to come back and say thank you and welcome another sister into the royal family," Young said.

Kee was the only individual to apply for the ambassador title this year.

Cory Styron, director of the city's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs department, said there has been a decline in young people applying for the position in recent years. With that in mind, the department will examine how to improve the program, including whether Native American young people know about the title and if it remains relevant in promoting culture, Styron said.

The event included comments from Christopher Taylor Benally, who ended his service as ambassador.

Benally said he completed his mission to promote nutrition, health and well-being, and did that by talking to students in the region and participating in running events in Farmington and Shiprock, and Flagstaff, Arizona.

"I thank the community of Farmington for allowing me the opportunity to represent the city," Benally said.

Myra Newman, division manager for the center, said the ambassador title started as a pageant for young Native American women in 2006.

Organizers decided in 2014 to revise the competition to include young men and change the title from Miss Indian Farmington.

Eligibility now requires individuals be between the ages of 12 and 18, and provide proof of tribal enrollment and Farmington residence, Newman said.

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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