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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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San Pasqual Warriors, Princesses Step Forward as Role Models
by Mara Knaub - Yuma (AZ) Sun Staff writer
Warrior: a person who accepts challenges, who shows or has shown great vigor, courage and strength, respect for themselves and for their culture.

Angelito Alvarez and Draco Geronimo fit the description of “Iipaa kwanamii” — a warrior.

The boys recently accepted the challenge of representing their schools, community and families as warriors, committing themselves to being good role models to their peers in the San Pasqual Valley Unified School District.

They earned this honor by participating in a competition that also resulted in the crowning of the newest Miss San Pasqual Native Princesses. Brittany Miguel was crowned as the High School Princess, while Ramona Emerson was chosen as the Middle School Princess.

While the Miss San Pasqual pageant is a longtime tradition, choosing warriors is something new.

“We added the boys two years ago at the high school level and at the middle school this year,” said Faron Owl, faculty adviser for the student group Strong Hearts Native Society.

“We did it with the idea of creating good role models,” Owl explained. “At this point, it's critical — not just important but critical — to have good examples other kids can follow.

“We're losing our language. Every time there are less elders that speak it. That's why it's important to get kids doing tradition.”

The stated mission of the warriors is to be an example to youth, to speak of the importance of learning the culture and carrying on traditions, able to sing and dance to traditional songs, be a positive role model and give assistance whenever asked to the students of San Pasqual and the surrounding community.

Alvarez, a San Pasqual High School junior, and eighth-grader Geronimo are both members of the Quechan Indian Tribe. Owl said both have shown great respect for the culture and traditions of the Quechan people.

Geronimo marks the first-ever warrior representing the middle school, and Alvarez became the second warrior chosen to represent the high school.

The first was Taylor Thomas, the son of Timothy Thomas and Gina Pina, who was selected last year to represent the high school as a warrior.

Angelito Alvarez, the son of Adina Chaipos Alvarez and Leo Alvarez, said he happily accepts his new role.

“I like our traditions, our songs, and I want to be a role model to our younger kids so our traditions will still be around when I'm older,” Alvarez told the Yuma Sun.

He said he believes good role models are needed. “Kids don't just want to be told what to do. They want someone to look up to, and I want to be like that.”

Offering himself up as a role model will also help keep him out of trouble, Alvarez said. “I'm a ball of energy, so sometimes I have to remember to calm myself down.”

Draco Geronimo, the son of Michelle Geronimo and Stergis Torres, also feels “good pressure” as a warrior to do what's right.

“It feels good that I'm the first (in the middle school). There's a little pressure not to mess around and to set an example to the little kids.”

Geronimo has always been interested in learning about his culture and traditional songs and dances.

“I'm already into it. As a singer, I already go to all the events. Kids are interested, but it's still good to keep it going even more.”

High School Princess Brittany Miguel is a senior at San Pasqual High School and the only child of Patricia Miguel.

To be selected, Miguel said, she showed her knowledge of the tribe's history, shared her family's history and described her talent and traditional dress, which her aunt Joslyn Ortega made.

“It's a diamond dress. It's for celebration,” Miguel told the Yuma Sun.

For the talent portion, she danced four songs.

She competed in the pageant to “show people what I know about my tribe and to be able to meet new people and learn new things.” She said she looks forward to attending powwows and social events and helping out in the community.

“Not many people want to know about tribal traditions. I'm one of a few people interested,” she added, noting that she wants to teach them to younger kids. “It's really important to know it because when they're older, they can teach it to their kids.”

Miguel names her great-grandmother Lavina Kelly as one of the people who have most influenced her. She was in a car accident that claimed the lives of her great-grandmother and a cousin. Miguel's leg was broken.

She said her great-grandmother “would always play traditional songs and be there for me. She helped me learn songs and taught me to dance.”

She also credits her mother and her great-aunt Caroljean Miguel for “being there for me and supporting me throughout my entire life.”

She doesn't forget her best friend Tomas Jefferson, “a really good supporter who always believed in me. If it wasn‘t for him, I wouldn't have run. He believed I could do it, and he was right,” she said, smiling. “I really want to thank him for that.”

She plans to attend Arizona Western College then transfer to a university to continue her studies in music and art.

Middle School Princess Ramona Emerson, an eighth-grade student, is the daughter of Christopher Emerson Sr. and the late Tina Shields.

She competed in the pageant because “I wanted to travel to places and meet people. I like dancing, and I also wanted to represent my school. It made me really happy and glad that I was chosen for this.”

In her role as a princess, Emerson hopes to make others “aware of our culture so it won't die out.”

For her talent, she danced in a dress made by her uncle Arlie Emerson.

Elementary Princess Teresa Valenzuela is a fifth-grade student and the daughter of Eileen and Eddie Valenzuela.

For the talent portion, she danced a bird and ah-keel songs, which she pointed out is a harvest dance.

She wanted to be a princess “so I can represent my school and be a role model,” noting that she, too, hopes to inspire other young people and set a good example, especially when it comes to the Quechan traditions.

“If they see me dancing, maybe they'll want to start doing it, too.”

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