Zunneh-bah Martin ’19 Represents Indigenous Peoples as Ceremonial Queen

By Leah Veldhuisen ’19

CC senior Zunneh-bah Martin recently completed her year as the Miss Gallup Inter-tribal Indian Ceremonial Queen representing the Diné(Navajo) and Modoc tribes.

The role is part of one of the longest-running events in New Mexico, the 97th Annual Gallup Inter-tribal Indian Ceremonial, and was the second time Martin competed. Martin first competed in Fall 2015, as she prepared to leave her reservation for the first time to attend CC. She says she did not run with the goal of winning, but just to “be surrounded by my family, friends, and Native peoples during the Ceremonial events before I left my community.”

She ran again in August 2017 and had a similar inspiration. It was right before she left to study abroad in New Zealand (Aotearoa in Maori), and she says, “I wanted to be part of this annual celebration of Native peoples and our cultures.”

Martin won the title of Miss Ceremonial Queen her second time. She explains that the pageant differs from others in that it “includes getting judged on an essay and public speaking as well as a professional interview with several judges asking tough questions about issues that affect Native American communities and Indigenous women. I was also judged on my Traditional Indigenous Cultural talent and skills as well as my Contemporary talent and skills on stage before the general public.”

These trials are meant to prepare the winner for her year-long stint as Miss Ceremonial Queen, a position that involves representing all Native American tribes and acting as a Native/Indigenous Woman leader and role model.

Martin particularly enjoyed using her platform to inform larger audiences about indigenous rights and environmental issues. The Miss Ceremonial Queen role is well-known across the Southwest, and Martin says it enabled her to interact with people from a variety of backgrounds and tribes with whom she wouldn’t otherwise have been able. She also had the opportunity to represent the title differently from past queens, as she is a full-time college student who studied abroad during her year as the Ceremonial Queen. “I hope to bring awareness and education of the original peoples of this land to CC and how the CC community can become allies who support and stand for Indigenous peoples, our rights, and issues we are still facing with the environment,” Martin says.