July 20th, 2015 Last Updated on: July 20th, 2015
Q) Congratulations! You are truly a beauty, inside and out! Please tell us about yourself? What do you want us to know about you?
A) Thank you, and Yá’át’ééh! My name is Renata Yazzie, and I am Miss Indian University of New Mexico 2015-2016. I’m a junior pursuing a degree in chemistry, while minoring in music and health, medicine & human values. I’ve been playing piano since I was 3 years old, and am classically trained in the art. My educational goal is to complete medical school and specialize in allergy & immunology.
Q) What is your tribal heritage and affiliation?
Shí éí Renata Yazzie yinishyé. Tó’aheedlíinii nishłí, Kinyaa’áanii bashishchiin. Bit’ahnii dashicheii. Honagháanii dashinálí. T’iisnazbaas dęę naashá. Akot’éego, asdzaani, nishłí.
A) My name is Renata Yazzie. I am Where the Water Flows Together clan, born for the Towering House clan. My maternal grandfather is Folded Arms clan, my paternal grandfather is He Who Walks Around clan. I am originally from Teec Nos Pos, Arizona. In this way, I am a Navajo woman.
Q) Culture and tradition is so important! What are some ways that you incorporate your tribal lifeways into your life?
A) You’re absolutely right, it is very important. For me, I live in the city, go to school, go to church, and it’s often difficult to find time to travel back home to the reservation and visit my friends and family. However, I believe that the teachings I was given, are the most important ways I’ve incorporated my culture into my life. For instance, my parents stressed the importance of K’é, or, relationships and familial ties through not only blood, but also by clan. I continue to heavily incorporate this into my daily life by interacting with my newfound relatives, and respecting the boundaries and establishing kinship ties with my peers.
Q) What was it like when you heard the announcement that you won? Has your life changed since then? If so, how?
A) I couldn’t quite believe it, when I heard that I’d won! It was a very happy moment for me. There was a mixture of emotions going on within me. I was excited, delighted, a bit nervous, but I tried my best to remain calm and composed, with a clear head until the very end. My life has changed some. I have more responsibilities and people to remain accountable towards, and I’ve definitely had to open up, out of my shell on several occasions. But, it’s surely been a pleasurable learning experience, to get out there, talk to people, listen to people, and interact with the community.
Q) What are some of the experiences that you are having as a titleholder? We'd enjoy hearing some of your stories!!
A) Most of my experiences thus far are interacting with the community, conversing with people who come from around the area. I’ve heard a lot of pieces of advice, I’ve heard elderly grandmas talk about their grandchildren and how they wish for them to go to school. I’ve heard words of encouragement, and I’ve listened to people voice their concerns for the current Indigenous generation. It’s been very eye-opening and I’ve learned a lot.
Q)What are some of the issues you are promoting during your reign? What is your platform? How are you raising awareness for it throughout your reign?
A) My platform is focused on promoting a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle. “Everything in moderation”, is something my mother has told me since I was a young girl. Though I am young, I have been given life lessons on what that phrase means, and after making adjustments in my daily routines, I have been able to make progress towards my life goals.
There are two specific ways in which I want to promote this. First, educationally, I want to encourage Native youth to pursue higher education, and to follow their passions. STEM fields are always seeking Native students who excel and go above and beyond the standard, and I hope to see more and more Native youth apply themselves to these fields. But, with that in mind, I would not want to neglect those with gifted hands, ears, and eyes: the potters, the painters, the musicians, the writers, the weavers, the chefs, the filmmakers, the photographers, the seamstress. They are just as important to the world, and I believe that if one is given a gift, they should utilize it, and give honor and glory to the One who bestowed that talent or gift upon them. Thus, the artists and writers of our generation should not be neglected; they should be encouraged, uplifted, and recognized.
Secondly, health-wise, I want to encourage Native youth to eat healthier, exercise more, and to take care of their minds and bodies. In order to function well, to get out there and reach one’s goals, they must be of sound mind and body. This doesn’t necessarily mean everyone should train like an Olympian, or go on some extreme diet, but rather to incorporate healthy habits into their daily lives to better themselves, whether it be walking 30 minutes in the evening, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, drinking a cup of orange juice, or logging out of Facebook for a week, and shutting off the TV for an evening. Little things will always add up.
First of all, educationally, I plan on raising awareness of STEM fields through holding information sessions regarding scholarships, special programs at the University of New Mexico, what specific degrees require, and resources available for incoming students. As a chemistry major looking to enter a health field, I have experience with classes needed for degrees like biology, chemistry, and biochemistry. However, as a dedicated pianist, I also wish to offer advice to students who may be looking into the creative and artistic fields. Two seemingly opposite passions, will always find a way to be together. Having a science degree, with an arts minor, has really allowed for me to have the best of both worlds.
Secondly, I plan on working with local health initiatives to bring education to native youth on how to incorporate more healthy choices into their lifestyles.
Q) What's next after your reign?
A) When my reign is complete, I will have one more semester before graduation, and I plan to continue working on strengthening my medical school application. In addition, I plan to get as far as I can in my music studies before entering medical school.
Q) Do you see yourself as a role model to other Native Americans? How does that make you feel? What do you hope others learn from your example?
A) As Miss Indian University of New Mexico, I am a role model to other Native Americans. It makes me feel nervous, and it’s humbling, but at the same time, it’s exciting. It makes me feel nervous because, I’m thinking, “what if I mess up?”. Keeping in mind that I will probably make mistakes, I will probably say something that I should’ve worded differently, that is humbling. I am not perfect, I am far from it. I am capable of making just as many mistakes as the next person. But then there’s the exciting part. Knowing that I will have so many opportunities to do the best I can do, be the best I can be, and get things done – that’s the exciting part of it all. I hope that others will see that sometimes stepping up to the plate and saying, “Yeah, I’ll give it a try.” is all they might need to open up a door of opportunities.
Q) What advice would you give someone just starting out in pageants and/or powwows? What do you wish you knew before you started?
A) For someone starting out in pageantry, my best advice is to not give up. Even if you think you don’t have the qualifications, even if you’re soft spoken, or are afraid of crowds, or don’t have the best academic record. If you think that you can represent your people, and would like the opportunity, then go for it. Nothing’s holding you back except yourself, and go forth with an open mind. Be willing to learn, be willing to try new things, be willing to take correction and constructive criticisms, and your life will be enriched.
In closing, I am finishing this up, on a flight to Germany, to perform and partake in an international piano festival. I will be presenting works from Beethoven and our very own Indigenous artist, Diné classical pianist and composer, Connor Chee. I am looking forward to it, and I appreciate the opportunity you have given me for this interview. Blessings and Greetings from 30,000 ft. in the air!
Miss Indian UNM 2015-2016,
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