Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Miss Navajo

Miss Navajo is a documentary that tells the story of the Miss Navajo pageant through the eyes of one contestant, 21-year-old Crystal Frazier, as well as delving into the history and meaning of the pageant through former participants. This unique pageant requires young Navajo women to demonstrate skills appropriate to a woman, leader and representative of the Navajo Nation - most memorably including the butchering of a sheep (but no real gory bits are shown). The winner will be a goodwill ambassador for the Nation and a symbol of how the Navajos and other First Nations groups persist despite the trauma and oppression they have faced past and present.

My Thoughts:
I highly recommend this documentary. Crystal is an engaging young woman, seeming initially very shy and reserved, but with inner depths of determination and strength. It was very affecting to hear other Miss Navajos discuss their experience, and this documentary also includes a good discussion of the residential schools which did much to suppress Native American culture throughout America. I would definitely show this in a class.

  • How is culture preserved? How is it passed on? How is it destroyed?
  • Compare and contrast this pageant to something like Miss America. How do the expected skills differ? How does dominant American culture express itself in more mainstream pageants?
  • What is the gender role for a young Navajo woman? 
  • Traditional Navajo culture is matriarchal. Is this seen in the film? How?
Feel free to post other discussion topics and questions in the comments!

Documentary website here
Runtime: 58 Minutes
Streaming on Netflix: Yes

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