She might look like your cousin Denise, but singer Radmilla Cody is actually a proud Navajo. Matter fact, she was chosen “Miss Navajo Nation” in 1997.
Therein lies a tale.
The daughter of a Navajo mother and an African-American father, Radmilla was raised in Navajo country, herding sheep and spinning wool and learning the Diné language from her grandmother.
Cody’s sheep-butchering skills and other traditional talents came in useful when she competed against six other women for the title of Miss Navajo Nation.
“I really wanted to run for Miss Navajo to make a statement,” she has said. “And that statement is that biracial people such as I really want to be taken seriously.”
When Radmilla was growing up, other Indian kids taunted her with “Zhinni Zhinni Cocoa Puff.” (Zhinni means black.)
After she won Miss Navajo, someone wrote a letter to the Albuquerque Journal and said: “Miss Cody’s appearance and physical characteristics are clearly black, and are thus representative of another race of people. ... Miss Cody should focus on her African American heritage and stay out of Navajo affairs.”
Now, Radmilla Cody is a noted recording artist... primarily singing Navajo lyrics. Click here to hear her “Corn Grinding Song.”
Cody hit a rough patch in 2001 when federal authorities indicted her as part of a major drug case. Turns out Cody’s boyfriend, Darrell Dwight Bellamy (a Negro), was the boss of a narcotics ring.
Cody publicly attributed her downfall to an “abusive relationship” with Bellamy.
In a plea bargain, she received a 21-month prison sentence.
This news rocked the Native American community. Rumors spread that the Navajo Nation Council might strip Cody of her status as a Miss Navajo Nation.
That didn’t happen. Radmilla Cody is still featured on the Miss Navajo Council website, along with the 51 other Miss Navajos. And she is now an activist against domestic violence.
Below is a brief clip of Cody in performance.
(NOTE: I know American Indian Heritage Month is over... but I thought November had 31 days in it. I really did.)