Miss Navajo

Pageant contestants are in their quest for the Miss Navajo Nation crown in a unique celebration of womanhood.

Miss navajo 01
Independent Lens
Premiere Date
November 13, 2007
60 minutes
Funding Initiative
Open Call
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2007 Traverse City Film Festival-Special Founders Prize
  • Luther billy filmmaker bio

    Billy Luther

    Billy Luther studied film at Hampshire College and worked for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian Film and Video Center. A past honoree of Film Independent’s Project: Involve, Luther was recently selected for the 2006 Sundance Ford Fellowship, CPB/PBS Producers Academy at WGBH and Tribeca Institute’s All Access Show more Program with his feature documentary Miss Navajo, which premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and won Michael Moore’s 2007 Special Founders Prize. He is in development on the documentaries Grab, The Untitled Indian Marching Band Project and Nanobah Becker’s narrative Full. Luther belongs to the Navajo, Hopi, and Laguna Pueblo Tribes. Show less


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    The Film

    For the past 50 years, the Miss Navajo Nation pageant has celebrated Navajo women and traditional values, language, and inner beauty. Held over a five-day period at the annual Navajo Nation Fair, contestants are required to showcase skills that are crucial to Navajo daily life, including sheep butchering, frybread making and rug weaving. Through interviews with new and previous pageant contestants, Miss Navajo reveals the importance of cultural preservation and the meaning of being a woman in Navajo culture.

    Crystal Frazier, a 21-year-old Navajo woman, lives on the reservation in Table Mesa, New Mexico. Living in a house without running water, Crystal helps care for her family’s livestock, makes a weekly trip to the well for water, and does a share of the cooking. A tomboy and former high school basketball champ, Crystal is confronted with a new set of challenges when she decides to compete in the 2005–06 Miss Navajo pageant. She acknowledges her own shyness and says that participating in the Miss Navajo contest would probably be a good experience. Miss Navajo follows Crystal’s journey leading up to the competition, while former Miss Navajos share their own memories of the pageant and what it meant to them. Each previously crowned winner also experienced life on the reservation and faced the challenges of working as a leader in the preservation of their culture.

    Conceived as a “celebration of womanhood” by filmmaker Billy Luther — whose mother, Sarah Johnson Luther, was Miss Navajo Nation 1966–67 — the film offers a different take on what it means to be beautiful, exploring tradition in Diné, or Navajo, culture through one woman’s quest for the Miss Navajo Nation crown.