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Miss Indian World receives big Seminole welcome

Miss Indian World Tashina Red Hawk, center, and 4-H coordinator Kimberly Clement, center back, meet with kids in the gymnasium on the Immokalee Reservation. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

In a change of scenery from her Sicangu Lakota Reservation in South Dakota, Miss Indian World Tashina Red Hawk experienced the Seminole Tribe’s culture and traditions and Florida’s summer humidity during a trip July 20-23.

Red Hawk visited the Big Cypress, Brighton, Hollywood and Immokalee reservations and made it a point to spend time with tribal youth.

“The youth are so lively, they’re great,” said Red Hawk, 18, a member of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate, or Rosebud Sioux Tribe. “They are sacred and can learn so much in seconds. Teaching them their culture is really important.”

Before she was crowned Miss Indian World in April, Red Hawk already had plenty of other accomplishments. She was the South Dakota high school rodeo ambassador and during the pandemic she opened her own business, a coffee shop, on the Sicangu Lakota Reservation, also known as the Rosebud Sioux Reservation. She is serving as the national 4-H agriculture spokesperson and is the national 4-H Youth in Action award recipient.

Red Hawk, the first Miss Indian World since the Seminole Tribe’s Cheyenne Kippenberger ended a two- year term in April, serves as a cultural goodwill ambassador as she travels the country and the world. Red Hawk’s visit to the Big Cypress Reservation included a stop at the culture center where she and her mother, Noella Red Hawk, who accompanied her on the trip, ate fry bread and drank sofkee with Tammy Billie and Tania Cypress.

The women talked about which traditional foods are important to their tribes. Billie mentioned garfish, deer meat, turtle soup and mudfish. Red Hawk said it was culturally important that she learn to hunt, butcher and cook deer. She also said her tribe eats buffalo, but not pork.

Many tribes have a form of fry bread, but Red Hawk had never had anything quite like the delicate fry bread Billie made for the visit. Sofkee was served and both mother and daughter were impressed with the traditional drink.

“We have something like this made with corn, it is our ceremonial food,” Red Hawk said. “We use it very sparingly, only in ceremonies.”

“Life does not get any better than this,” her mother said. “This is sacred food. I feel greatly honored and loved.”

The next stop on the tour was the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, where both Red Hawk women delighted in the lushness of the landscape.

“We come from a dry climate, we don’t mind the heat,” Noella Red Hawk said. “We don’t have the humidity, but today we’re enjoying it.”

After visiting the museum, Miss Indian World was greeted by a group of kids at the Herman L. Osceola Gym. They asked Red Hawk plenty of questions about being Miss Indian World. She had some of her own for them and wanted to know if anyone was in 4-H. She talked about her love of animals and that she plans to become a veterinarian. She attends South Dakota State University where she is studying animal science.

“My love for animals all started with 4-H,” said Tashina, who joined 4-H at age 8. “It helps my spirit. The 4-H values are the same as Indian values. I learned leadership and other things from 4-H.”

One of the kids asked about the Miss Indian World competition and she told them one of the things she had to do was to talk for three minutes about one thing she is passionate about.

“I talked about what it means to adorn someone,” she said. “I see a lot of beautiful skirts here. Someone made that for you, adorned you, because they love you.”

To earn the post as the national 4-H agriculture spokesperson, Red Hawk wrote essays and was interviewed. It helped that she volunteers at an emergency clinic for animals and made many connections through her years at 4-H.

“The greatest leaders in life have a support team,” she said. “Before 4-H I wouldn’t have stood up to sing or speak to you. 4-H gives you that support.”

Her platform as Miss Indian World centers on youth, culture and animals. She reaches out to Native youth and emphasizes the importance of cultural identity as she travels to pow wows, conferences and schools to speak and give presentations.

In Immokalee, she met with a group of kids in the gym. She described her Rosebud Reservation, which has an abundance of wild roses. She asked the kids what they wanted to be; answers included football player, chef and veterinarian. She told the kids that she started loving something about 4-H at around their age.

“The wonderful thing about 4-H is there are coaches and counselors to guide you,” she said. “I didn’t know there were so many things you can do in 4-H.”

Red Hawk is an avid barrel racer and horse trainer in South Dakota, where the state sport is rodeo.

“Horses help me maintain my connection to who I am,” she said. “Horses are sacred to the Lakota, they came to us as protectors. If you’re going to own something that eats and drinks, you have to love them like family and take care of them.”

Then Red Hawks led the Immokalee kids in a round dance, which they explained traditionally lasts all night.

“During winter when we have no pow wows, it keeps us together as a nation,” Noella Red Hawk said. “We celebrate each other’s company. As the world is healing itself outside, we come together and stay healthy inside.”

On the Hollywood Reservation, Miss Indian World and her mother were introduced at the Tribal Council meeting and met youth and adults in the Howard Tiger Recreation Center. In Brighton, they rode on a swamp buggy for the first time, toured the sugar cane field and tasted the sweet stalks and visited the Florida Seminole Veterans Building and Culture Department.

“I got to see how our regions gave our tribes different ways to be resourceful,” Red Hawk said. “The Seminole people are so hospitable and are wonderful hosts. I learned so much. It was an enlightening and enjoyable experience.”

Miss Indian World Tashina Red Hawk, center, and her mother, Noella Red Hawk, left, sample sofkee and fry bread made by Big Cypress Culture instructor Tammy Billie during a visit to the Big Cypress Reservation on July 21. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
Miss Indian World Tashina Red Hawk meets with kids in Hollywood at the Howard Tiger Recreation Center. (Courtesy photo)
Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum director Gordon Wareham joins Noella Red Hawk, center, and Miss Indian World Tashina Red Hawk outside the museum in Big Cypress. The women are holding some of the gifts given to them by the museum. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
After a visit with youth in Immokalee, Miss Indian World Tashina Red Hawk shares a group hug with kids. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
Miss Indian World meets President Mitchell Cypress, left, and Brighton Councilman Larry Howard. (Courtesy photo)
Miss Indian World meets a couple of youngsters in Hollywood. (Courtesy photo)
Miss Indian World Tashina Red Hawk, center with crown, is surrounded by kids and a few adults in the Herman L. Osceola Gym in Big Cypress. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.
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