SPOTLIGHT: Miss Indian Arizona


 Photo/Shaandiin Parrish

Photo/Shaandiin Parrish

Yá’át’ééh! Shí éí Kinyaa’aanii adoone’e nishłį́goo dóó  báshíshchíín. Todich’íi’nii éí dashicheii dóó Tábąąhá éí dashinálí.  Ákwót’áo Diné asdzání nishłí. Shí éí Shaandiin Parrish yinishyé. Tó Dínéeshzhee’ dę́ę́ naashá. K’ad éí Hoozdoh dí shighan. Arizona State University dí íínishtá. Naataanii baa ííníshta’. Shímá éí Shelly Parrish wolyé adóó shizhe’é éí TJ Begay wolyé. Bił háíjéé’ éí naaki. Shídeezhí éí Preshes Parrish-Begay wolyé, adóó shítsilí éí Shaanta Parrish wolyé. Shimásaní éí Wanda Smallcanyon Parrish wolyé. Adóó shicheii éí Paul Parrish wolyę́ę́’ nit’ę́ę́. Adóó shinalí hastiin éí Bill Begay wolyé dóó shinalí asdzą́ą́ éí Pauline Johnson-Begay wolyę́ę́’ nit’ę́ę́. Shí éí Hoozdo Hahoozo bi’cheeké.

 It is customary in my culture, the Navajo (Diné) culture, to first identify one’s self through their clans and where they are from so that we may establish relationships with those that they are communicating with.I’ll translate some of what I shared: Greetings! I am of and born for the Towering House people. My maternal grandfathers are the Bitter-Water People, and my paternal grandfathers are the Edge-Water People. This is who I am as a Navajo woman. My name is Shaandiin Parrish. I am from Kayenta, Arizona, but I currently live in the Gilbert, Arizona where I am attending Arizona State University (ASU). At ASU I am “learning how to be a leader” or in other words, I am pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Policy with an emphasis in American Indian Studies and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in Education. I am also Miss Indian Arizona.


My umbilical cord is buried in Kayenta, and that means Kayenta will always be my home. Although I lived with my parents as a child, my very conservative grandparents raised me. My grandfather, a Navajo Code Talker, instilled the importance of education, hard work, and loyalty. His teachings paid off. I graduated from Monument Valley High School at the age of sixteen. Believe me, I didn’t want to graduate, but I had completed all of my school’s most advanced courses. Upon graduation I was awarded the Gates Millennium Scholarship. With the world at my fingertips I decided to attend the only school I applied for, Arizona State University.

Okay, so I probably could have gotten into more schools, but my high school graduation plan was kind of rushed, and I kind of didn’t have any other choice at the time. My plan was to transfer after the first semester, especially after ASU chose my major, but that didn’t happen. I stuck it out as an Elementary Education major with an emphasis in bilingual education until ASU would not let me do my teaching internship on the Navajo Nation. How was I supposed to teach in Diné Bizaad and English in the city? Who was going to mentor me? With no answers, I decided to change my major entirely to Political Science, because I believe you need to be the change you wish to see in the world. My passion will always be bilingual education, and I know that one day I will be able to make a difference through policy.

So here we are today, I’m about to finish both my degrees from Arizona State University, I am Miss Indian Arizona, and did I mention I also work for the Arizona State Senate?  I am beyond blessed to not only serve the state of Arizona as Miss Indian Arizona, but also to literally serve the state as a Page at the Arizona State Senate. Monday through Friday I’m delivering our state senators’ mail and on Saturdays I’m lined up with them in parades. 


I love where I am from.

I was born in Gouldings, Utah, which is about 20 minutes from my community in Kayenta. If you’ve never been to the area I’m sure you’ve seen it in movies like “The Lego Movie”, “The Lone Ranger”, the fourth “Transformers” movie, and “Forrest Gump”. SPOILER: They’re currently filming Jurassic World 2 in the area right now. I remember one summer when Johnny Depp rented out one of the small hotels in our town for ‘privacy’, and another summer when Optimus Prime was parked in our Bashas’ parking lot. Ya never know who you’ll run into.


I entered my first pageant when I was 10 years old. It was the Miss Kayenta Intermediate School pageant. At 10 years old the only titles I was aware of was that title and the Miss Navajo Nation title. I had no idea how these girls were chosen or when pageants occurred. They were unicorns for all I knew. My teacher, Ms. Shirley Paulson, was a unicorn. In 1983-1984 Ms. Paulson was Miss Navajo Nation. Miss Navajo Nation asked me to run for Miss Kayenta Intermediate School. How could I refuse? With no knowledge of how these things went she coached me. I had to learn how to make the dough for frybread, how to tie our traditional hair bun, a modern talent, a traditional (Diné) talent, and some how gain the confidence to do all that on stage.

Every night after my homework I would plan and practice alone. When the day came I just told my family I had something after school and they needed to be there.  They arrived to the gym in basketball shorts, t-shirts, and shocked looks on their faces. I’m still glad to this day I didn’t tell them what I was up to. Well, let me cut to the end; I didn’t win.

I’ve been runner-up at so many pageants and each time I have learned something new about myself. Each time I have accepted my capabilities, I have pushed my boundaries, learned to love myself a little more, become a better public speaker, made me smile more, and has developed my conversation skills. Indigenous pageants preserve our cultures. They push young woman to learn their languages, and their traditions. In that way every contestant wins. 


 Photo/Shaandiin Parrish

Photo/Shaandiin Parrish

The Navajo Nation really is its own small country. Our sources of news come from the Navajo Times (our premier newspaper that reports solely what happens on our reservation), KTNN (our radio station that covers reservation news in Diné Bizaad and English), and TV news channels that are based in Phoenix. So on average, our people usually are only aware of global news, national news, Phoenix local news, and Navajo Nation news. Did you know that there are 22 tribes in Arizona? The people of the Navajo Nation share many of the same experiences as the other 21 tribes in Arizona, and I would have never known that if I did not travel off of the reservation. Hm… And to think that most of our people don’t leave the reservation… I wanted to fill that gap for my people, and that’s what inspired me to run for the Miss Indian Arizona title.

I have competed for this title twice. The first time I was sashed 2nd runner-up in 2014-2015, and the second time I was crowned the 55th Miss Indian Arizona.


Well first thing’s first, you can find our application at

The application will give you a general outline of what to expect. The current application is due on July 28th, 2017 and will require a $350 application fee. You will also need to visit your local physician and have him or her fill out the Physicians statement, which essentially states that you are in good health. You will also need to provide two photos in your application packet, two essays, two letters of recommendation, proof of tribal enrollment, an official transcript, and to fill out the rest of the application descriptions.

The process is quite tedious but anyone can do it!

Once your application is in, you’ll be notified that our Executive Director has received your application, and the fun begins! We have a pre-orientation in September, and an orientation a few days before the pageant actual begins. The Miss Indian Arizona Association provides you the tools necessary to shine your best during the pageant.

The pre-orientation, the orientation, and the pageant are all based in the Phoenix metropolitan area. As a contestant you are expected to be at all of these meetings.


The Miss Indian Arizona program began in 1961, and since has become one of the most respected titles among Arizona tribes. In some tribal communities once you win your tribal title you are expected to run for the Miss Indian Arizona title. Yet, the Miss Indian Arizona program is much more than a pageant; it is also a scholarship program. Miss Indian Arizona receives a $4000 scholarship, the 1st attendant receives a $2000 scholarship, and the 2nd attendant receives a $1500 scholarship. 

Do it! I promise you won’t regret it!

You’ll have so much fun! If you’re unsure that’s okay. All the contestants participate in workshops that really help you prepare. We have platform development workshops, public speaking workshops, interview workshops, time set aside to practice the opening number, pageant walking workshops, and tons of time to rehearse! We really want everyone to have the best time ever and to take away professional knowledge that you can use in real life. You’ll make so many new friends from all over the state!

 Photo/Shaandiin Parrish

Photo/Shaandiin Parrish


This year, in our 56th Miss Indian Arizona pageant contestants will be competing in our first ever “Fitness” competition.

When I ran for the Miss Indian Arizona title I did not have to compete in this category but I will be apart of it this year. Usually we all dance in the opening number together but this year we’ve modified our opening number to highlight our contestants’ physical fitness abilities.

The competition again will be on October 14, 2017 at 6:30PM at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Chandler, Arizona.

It could be you! The deadline is: July 28, 2017


A special thank you to Shaandiin for taking the time to answer my length list of questions! You shine with great personality and happy to call you my Miss Indian Arizona. I cannot wait to see you in October! May I wish you luck on your future endeavors!