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Non-Navajo is Twin Lakes princess

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  • Rob Schmidt
    http://www.navajotimes.com/education/index.php Non-Navajo is Twin Lakes princess By Cindy Yurth Tséyi Bureau CHINLE, May 28, 2009 You had to look - and
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 1, 2009

      Non-Navajo is Twin Lakes princess

      By Cindy Yurth
      Tséyi' Bureau

      CHINLE, May 28, 2009

      You had to look - and listen - closely to see that Twin Lakes Elementary
      School last week crowned a non-Navajo as its princess.

      "She had the outfit, she had the tsííyeel ... she looked just like a little
      Navajo girl," said Carmen Clark, the new princess' Navajo language teacher.

      In fact, Charlize Fernandez is 100 percent Filipina ... though she's spent
      seven of her eight years on the Navajo Nation.

      "We're Navajos at heart," said Charlize's mom, Jane Fernandez.

      Jane Fernandez teaches at Tohatchi Elementary School and her husband,
      Hindley Fernandez, teaches fine arts at Twin Lakes.

      The family moved to Dinétah after Jane, who was teaching at an international
      school in the Philippines, became curious about Native Americans.

      "I was teaching children of all nationalities, but I never met a Native
      American," she said. "So when an opportunity came to teach on the Navajo
      Nation, I took it."

      Jane encouraged her children to learn all they could about Diné culture, but
      they soon surpassed her.

      "They speak much more Navajo than I do now," she said.

      Last year, Charlize's elder sister Gwyneth was first runner-up to the
      Tohatchi Elementary princess, so Charlize decided to follow in her footsteps
      this year.

      "I haven't tried it before, so I decided to try," Charlize said.

      "It was kind of a last-minute decision," Clark recalled. "She said, 'Can I
      do this?' I said, 'Yes, go ahead.'"

      Jane offered to choreograph her daughter's talent number, but Charlize had
      other ideas.

      "She said, 'No, I already know what I want to do,'" her mom recounted.

      Charlize blew the judges away by singing in Navajo, then working on a sewing
      project while she switched to Spanish for a rousing rendition of "Las

      "Her Navajo pronunciation is better than most of her Navajo classmates',"
      Clark observed.

      Were the Diné kids jealous of Charlize's victory?

      "Not at all," said Clark. "They're all proud of her."

      Jane said her family feels very comfortable in Diné Bikéyah, halfway around
      the world from their home.

      "We look like the people here, which I think helps us fit in," she said.
      "And I see a lot of similarities between Navajo and Filipino culture."

      Jane said she'll continue to encourage her daughters to study Diné bizaad,
      even though it's their fourth language. They also speak Tagalog, the
      national language of the Philippines, a well as their regional dialect and
      of course English.

      If singing in Spanish can be counted, Charlize actually speaks five

      Does she ever get them mixed up?

      "No," she said.

      Any advice for her classmates who'd like to be princess?

      "Practice," she said. "Practice every day."
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