The three Miss Native Dixie State contestants after receiving their titles. Delaina Becenti was titled the 2021 Miss Native Dixie State. Photo courtesy of the Multicultural and Inclusion Center at DSU.
In honor of Native American Heritage month, the twenty-fifth Miss Native Dixie State title was crowned to a woman from the Navajo tribe.
Three of Dixie State University’s indigenous women took the stage Tuesday to compete for Miss Native Dixie State 2021. Phyllis Kitseallyboy passed her crown off to Delaina Becenti as the new Miss Native Dixie State after being the title holder for two years. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kitseallyboy was the titleholder in 2019 and 2020.
Each of the contestants answered a judge’s question, performed both a modern talent and a traditional talent of their choice, and presented themselves several times on stage. The contestants spent countless hours preparing for the pageant. Here is the scoring breakdown from the pamphlet handed out at the event:
- Private interview – 15%
- Traditional talent – 15%
- Modern talent – 15%
- Traditional/evening wear – 15%
- Academic achievement – 10%
- On-stage question – 5%
- Written essay – 15%
- Service and involvement – 10%
Contestant No. 1 – Cristal Nizhoni Elena Elias
Second attendant winner is Cristal Nizhoni Elena Elias, a senior exercise science major from Cedar City. Her modern talent was creating and designing a ribbon skirt. Her traditional talent represents the “circle of life,” as she showcased a hoop dance.
“I wanted to run for Miss Native Dixie because it’s a way to show each of our cultures and why it’s so important to showcase each of the tribes we come from,” Elias said.
She is affiliated with the Navajo tribe and also serves as the vice president of the Native American Student Association at DSU.
When asked, “Is social media bringing people together or causing separation?” Elias said social media is both bringing people together while also tearing them apart.
“I want to be a Native representative for this school to teach others what it means to be a Native American,” Elias said. “Being Native American and having your school appreciate the Native community is just amazing, this title represents all the natives who attend DSU and shows the diversity our school has to offer.”
Contestant No. 2 – Naji Runs Through
The first attendant winner is Naji Runs Through, a sophomore art major from St. George. Her modern talent was fashion, and she was able to showcase a video with a couple of her own designs. The traditional talent Runs Through did was storytelling.
“Being a trans-woman [and] two spirited, I have always felt like their are certain things and places I am not allowed to take up, after working on myself and acceptance of my identity, if anything Miss Native Dixie is exactly the space for me to take up,” Runs Through said.
Runs Through is affiliated with the Fort Peck Assiniboine tribe.
She said the most important issue her generation is facing is pushback from older generations that are afraid to pass over their power to younger generations.
“Living in Saint George all my life, I have seen how underrepresented indigenous people are in this community and on top of that, the under representation of plains native let alone two-spirited individuals,” Runs Through said.
Contestant No. 3 – Delaina Becenti
The 2021 Miss Native Dixie State is Delaina Becenti, a freshman general studies major from Green River, Wyoming. Her modern talent was a tae kwon do self-defense routine. As a traditional talent, Becenti showcased her beading business, Dusty Boots Designs.
Becenti said: “It is important for indigenous people to have a space, to take up space. A space to be seen and heard and appreciated. This pageant encourages indigenous people to take up the space they deserve. To put themselves out there and be proud of where we come from.”
Becenti is affiliated with the Navajo tribe.
She said events like the Miss Native Dixie State pageant are important in the community because it is an opportunity for native women to have presence and allows for them to have a spot to be present.
“If you see me on campus and you feel like I can help you in anyway [or] if you are struggling and need resources I am here,” Bercenti said. “Even if we have never spoken before, I am here, as far as I’m concerned, we are already friends and family.”