Miss Gallup Inter-tribal Indian Ceremonial Queen supports suicide prevention


Last updated 11/14/2015 at 3:56pm


This year's Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial Queen is Kahlaya Rose Mckinney of the Owens Valley Paiute Tribe of Bishop, California. She is 19 years old and majoring in Nursing at San Juan College. Originally from Beclabito, New Mexico, she resides in Shiprock, NM.

DK: You're a true role model! Please tell us about yourself.

KM: Yá'át'ééh, my name is Kahlaya Rose Mckinney. I am born for the Owens Valley Paiute Tribe of Bishop, California. My father is Muskogee Creek from Tulsa, Oklahoma. My paternal grandfather is Red Running into Water Clan from Beclabito, New Mexico, and my paternal grandfather is Muskogee Creek, again from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

I am 19 years old and I'm majoring in Nursing at San Juan College. I am originally from Beclabito, New Mexico, and I reside in Shiprock, New Mexico. I am told that I am a very outspoken and confident person, and, I totally agree. I love to learn and share new stories and teachings about Native American people.

DK: We are happy that you're sharing with us! We'd love to learn more about you and your people.

KM: My mom is Owens Valley Paiute from Bishop, California. My Owens Valley Paiute people live in a valley between two big mountains, the White Mountains and the Sierra Nevada Mountain ranges. We use different types of rocks to build and use in our everyday living. We eat a lot of fish, deer and pine nuts. Every year my family participates in a walk which begins in the Yosemite Valley and ends on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I have to admit since my father is no longer here with us I have not learned a whole lot about my Muskogee Creek tradition and culture.

DK: So, what are some of the cultural ways that shape your daily life?

KM: I grew up and was raised on the Navajo Nation. As a Dine' woman, my grandparents taught me the proper way of a Dine' woman. As Dine' people we use corn in our everyday lives. Sheep are also very important to us. We use all parts of the sheep from the sheep skin to his organs, and nothing is wasted. I am very proud to represent the Northern Navajo Agency, as well as, the entire Navajo Nation.

DK: Wonderful! How important are your tribal traditions to you?

KM: Culture and traditions are very important, especially now that our traditions and cultural practices seem to be slowly dissipating. One tradition I was taught is to always wear my turquoise jewelry. Turquoise is one of our four sacred stones in the Navajo Nation.

DK: And now you have a title that allows you to promote the unity, love and respect that you mentioned everywhere you go. How does that make you feel?

KM: When I heard my name, I automatically started crying because my heart was filled with happiness.

DK: Oh how lovely! I'm so happy for you! How has this experience changed your life?

KM: My life has changed dramatically. Before this title, I was working, full-time, and going to school, full time. Since I won this title I have had to reduce both my work and school time to part-time because of how fast and busy my schedule has become. Overall, it has been very busy and very fun because my heart is being filled with love at every event I attend.

DK: As you attend so many events, are there certain experiences that are dear to your heart?

KM: One experience I hold dear is my trip to the Pueblo of Zuni Fair. The Zuni people were all so nice and welcoming to me, I will never forget that experience. I went on a Saturday afternoon, just before the evening activities were about to begin. We walked the vendor displays along the parade route. Then I walked in the night performance grand entry. We watched the new Miss Zuni being crowned. This was the first Miss Zuni the Pueblo of Zuni had in six years. Everyone was so happy to bring this title back into the Pueblo of Zuni. The Zuni people were all so grateful I was there. They informed me that I was only the second Miss Gallup Inter-tribal Indian Ceremonial Queen to visit their Pueblo. This was very heartwarming to hear. All my travels have been amazing but this trip to the Pueblo of Zuni was one of a kind.

DK: Sounds gorgeous! Thank you for letting us see it through your eyes! Are there any ideas or causes that you are promoting during your reign?

KM: My platform this year is to prevent teen suicide and bullying. I was bullied and suicidal as a young girl. I think people really connect better when you share your personal story with each other. I am currently planning school visits with adolescents to speak with them about teen suicide and bullying. Mainly, to share how teens can prevent this huge issue or threat across our tribal reservation.

DK: I'm so sorry that you had to go through such tough times, but I am thankful that you have a platform to help others to move forward through such difficult challenges. What do you plan to accomplish after your reign?

KM: After this reign, I plan on running for the title of Miss Northern Navajo, Miss Indian World, and, then, after, some major learning and practicing, I will run for the title of Miss Navajo Nation. I am not fluent in the Navajo language, so after I get my Associates in Nursing Education, I really want to take a year or two, to completely immerse myself in learning more of the Navajo culture with my family who live at our traditional home in Beclabito, New Mexico.

DK: Amazing plans! Since you have such a bright and beautiful future, what do you think is the best advice that helped you along the way?

KM: The best advice I have ever received was always love yourself before anybody else. It may sound a little conceited but you have to love yourself before you can truly love somebody else. A piece of advice I have never followed was to "treat people the way they treat you." I have experienced a lot of criticism in my life, in my time as an ambassador and some people are straight up rude and mean! But I have always treated people with respect and with a smile on my face-I always "greet the CEO the same way you greet the janitor."

DK: Humility comes before honor, so it is refreshing to see you walking in traditional virtues like humility, respect, modesty, hospitality and generosity. Do you see yourself as a role model?

KM: Yes, I feel that I am a role model to other Native American tribes. Especially, to those young ladies and little girls who are not the stereotypical pretty, skinny or smart girl. I am not your prettiest or skinniest or smartest girl out-there but I feel that representing all young women is very important. I hope others learn to always respect one another because, one must remember that, you are no better than the person next to yourself.

DK: You are truly gracious and well-spoken! Thank you so much for your time today! Please bless our readers before you go?

KM: Ahééhéé. Thank you for this opportunity to comment. Always remember you are an amazing person, you have all your ancestors, your family and your tribe behind you! Always strive for your perfection, hozoho'go na'dedish'da'a'l doo'. You are all beautiful and amazing, dah' no'shooni'I'. Doesn't it feel good to be Native?

DK: Great! Many thanks for your beautiful words.


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