The reigning Miss Indian Arizona, Daryl Lynn Jay, an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC), is finishing the last month of her term. Recently she took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to review her year as Miss Indian Arizona.
Jay comes from the Komatke village of the GRIC and Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. She is the daughter of Michael Jay (Gila River) and Priscilla Jay (Salt River), and has two brothers and one sister. Her paternal grandparents are Vernon and the late Rema Jay of Gila River, and her maternal grandparents are the late Richard and Ethel Parchcorn of Salt River. She is the proud great-granddaughter of Eleanor and the late Andrew Jay of Gila River and the late Jasper and Daisy Baptisto of Salt River.
Jay has served and represented both communities in various leadership roles on the local, state and national level. In 2004 she was selected as the Boys and Girls Club of Scottsdale “Youth of the Year” for her services to the youth of the Boys and Girls Club as well as her scholastic standing and moral character. To this day, she continues to volunteer her time with various Boys and Girls Clubs throughout Arizona.
She also served on the Salt River Young People’s Council and the Akimel O’odham Pee-Posh Youth Council. Jay also held the title of Jr. Miss Gila River in 2003, and prior to winning the Miss Indian Arizona title she was Miss Gila River in 2009. Jay was elected by the youth of Indian Country as the National Congress of American Indians Female Youth Commissioner in 2005. Most recently she was the recipient of the Wilma Mankiller Memorial Scholarship, which she received at the Women Empowering Women for Indian Nations Conference in Oklahoma in July.
Experience as Miss Indian Arizona
“When I was first going to run [for Miss Indian Arizona], I was real hesitant because I didn’t know if I wanted to [do that] or if I wanted to finish my reign as Miss Gila River and then finish school,” said Jay. “I ended up [competing for Miss Indian Arizona] because it was in my Miss Gila River contract. Since I was crowned it has been an overwhelming experience; it’s been amazing. The people I have met and their hospitality have been wonderful. People want to learn about being O’odham and all of our cultural traditions, although some people were more interested in the farming.”
For example, Jay had the opportunity to go to Hawaii to visit the Polynesian people and experience their culture. She was fascinated by them, and they wanted to know everything about her. Going to Hawaii made Jay appreciate her culture even more because she witnessed firsthand that the Polynesian people are fighting for their sovereignty.
“It’s sad, and it makes you appreciate what you have in your community,” said Jay. “I share that a lot when I go out and meet with our children and youth; I remind them how privileged they are.
“It has been a huge learning experience for me. I probably never would have had the opportunity to learn about all the 21 tribes in Arizona, and be able to go out and represent all of them on top of that,” continued Jay. “It was an opportunity to meet people, along with the other girls from the four O’odham tribes, who I try to include in some of the events that I do. I try to give them the same opportunities I’ve had been given, because that is exactly what other people have done for me.”
Jay has attended many pageants across Arizona and conferences throughout the United States. She explained how exciting it was to attend the Women Empowering Women for Indian Nations conference in Oklahoma in July and to receive the very first Wilma Mankiller Memorial Scholarship.
“I was just blown away that I even got chosen for that because she (Wilma Mankiller) was a remarkable woman,” said Jay. “Being able to have a scholarship in her honor is amazing to me. The conference was a huge opportunity for me to represent the women from all over Indian Country and to be more empowered by them and the things they’re doing, such as going into politics. I felt like I came back ready to help more people.”
Even so, Jay said that her best experience over the past year has been giving back to the Salt River Community. Even though she is not an enrolled member of the Community, she has been honored to represent SRPMIC, GRIC and all the other O’odham tribes of Arizona.
Jay said that she also has been able to include her family and friends in her experience. “Strengthening those relationships has helped me remain sane, because it’s hard always traveling and always having something to do,” Jay said. She does admit that the tough schedule is definitely worth it. Her support in Salt River has come from her godmothers Vickie Andrews, Janet Johnson, Ester Moyah, Annette Leonard, Dorine Andrews, Helema Andrews and Paula Williams, as well as Ricardo “Brusha” Leonard.
“They have been my lifeline; I don’t know what I would have done without them. They have helped me financially and emotionally; they have been there to listen, or if I need a last-minute ride to an event. I know I can always count on them. Even before now they have always been there. I am so grateful to have that love and support, because I don’t know what I would do without all of them.”
After Miss Indian Arizona
After Jay completes her reign as Miss Indian Arizona, she is looking to serve an internship in Washington, D.C. with the White House Project, which is a group that trains women to go into business, politics and the media. She also will finish her degree in communications and a minor in political science.
Jay also wants to expand her women’s group, Shining Stars, which she founded in Gila River. The group, which works out of the Gila River Boys and Girls Club, is a place for young women to come together to laugh, bead, sew and listen to guest speakers who share their life experiences, good or bad. This year Jay will be expanding Shining Stars to the Salt River Boys and Girls Clubs.
Jay encourages youth to take that leap of faith. “For anything you are passionate about, go for it, because you never know where it’s going to take you. Go and succeed and strive to be the best, whether it is being a mother, a mechanic or a hair stylist. Whatever you choose to do, make it a point to do your best at it,” Jay explains.
“I never would have imagined that I would be Miss Indian Arizona,” said Jay. “I got into pageants because I grew up in traditional dancing, and the women encouraged me to try it out, and now this is where I am today.”
Jay has spoken at a lot of middle schools and Boys and Girls Clubs trying to encourage teens to stay involved. She attributes this to her parents, who kept her involved with the Youth Council, Fire Explorers, Dance Group and the Boys and Girls Club both here in Salt River and in Gila River. Without her parents’ encouragement, she would not be where she is today, she said.
“A lot of the times you have to leave your friends behind,” said Jay. “It is a difficult choice, but if you want to accelerate your own life you have to leave some friends behind. I had to learn that this year, and I share it with other kids. You think, ‘Oh, this is my best friend forever.’ You think you are just going to ride it out with them, and whatever they’re going to do, you’re going to do, but in the end you will be short-selling yourself. [You don’t have to do the same things your friends do, even if it is the right choice for them.] I am glad someone told me that at a young age, because otherwise I probably would be pregnant with kids by now.”
Jay would like to thank the Salt River Community for playing a part in raising her and helping her become the woman she is today. She is thankful for all the support that she has been given from all the Community members. She said, “I don’t know how I would have accomplished the things I have if I hadn’t learned what I did from the Community members here in Salt River. To be able to grow up with all the people who helped raise me is a blessing. My success is their success.”