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Native American magazine features two Seminole women

HOLLYWOOD — Two members of the Seminole Tribe have landed on the cover of Native Max Magazine.

Cheyenne Kippenberger and Tomasina Chupco – who describe themselves as friends and business partners – are featured in the magazine’s February/March 2020 issue titled “Unconquered Native Women.”

It’s the first time the magazine, launched in 2007, has featured Seminoles on its cover. The issue also includes an interview with the pair.

The duo are known as passionate representatives of the Tribe who have achieved much in their young lives – Kippenberger is 24, Chupco is 29.

Chupco has had a relationship with Native Max for several years. When the publisher learned about the work the two had been doing for the Tribe and other activities, the idea for the cover photo began.

Cheyenne Kippenberger (seated) and Tomasina Chupco-Gilliam are the first Seminoles to be featured on the cover of Native Max Magazine. (Photo Cynecia Manning)

The images were taken on the boardwalk at the Miccosukee Indian Village in the Everglades west of Miami.

The issue’s theme is heavy on Native fashion and the cover photo reflects it.
Kippenberger is wearing traditional clothing with Seminole patchwork; while Chupco is in more contemporary business wear with Seminole touches.

Kippenberger, from Hollywood, and Chupco, from Fort Pierce, said wearing the contrasting fashions was a way to send a message that there is “not one set look of Seminole women.”

“[And] one of the visions we wanted to get out for the cover is to get people to see the homeland – the swamps, oak trees and tall grass,” Kippenberger said.

The original idea was to use the boardwalk at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum in Big Cypress for the photo shoot, but the natural lighting was a little too dark, so the Miccosukee location was used instead.

Next to the photo on the cover is the description: “Two women who hail from a tribe as unconquered as their motivation and drive.”

An inside teaser continues: “Seminole boss women and best friends, who are successful, use their voices for power and remain unconquered.”

Kippenberger and Chupco brought on familiar faces to help bring the cover photo together.

Tribal member and makeup artist Vanessa Billiee of Billiee Beauty did the makeup for both women. Chupco wore jewelry by Laura Clay, and her dress is by Seminole designer Simply Savage Steffs.

Kippenberger wore jewelry by Beadwork by Dakota, run by Seminole artist Dakota Osceola. The late Donna Turtle made her outfit.

The photographer is a friend of Chupco’s, Cynecia Manning.

Tribal talents

Native Max lauded the pair’s list of endeavors and accomplishments.

Chupco’s achievements include recently earning a doctorate in educational leadership from Lynn University.

She is also the training and development assistant at the Native Learning Center in Hollywood.

Kippenberger has a long list of accolades, not the least of which is her current reign as Miss Indian World.

Native Max highlighted her ongoing activist work. Kippenberger recently spoke out about women’s clothing designer Ulla Johnson appropriating Seminole patchwork and culture within her apparel.

She led a social media effort to have the items removed from the Ulla Johnson website, which happened. However, the company and designer have not yet issued an apology.

Kippenberger was already an emerging force during her time as Miss Florida Seminole, before being crowned Miss Indian World in April 2019.

She has traveled, organized events and has represented the Tribe at many official and unofficial gatherings.

Kippenberger and Chupco organized the Tribe’s first-ever symposium focused on Native trauma and healing in October 2019 – “Healing the Circle in our Tribal Communities.” Kippenberger also recently offered a Tribal training on human trafficking.

“What we love and admire about the pair is how much they incorporate their Seminole culture in their daily lives, from the projects they’re working on to their outfits, to using their power and influence to inspire and create change,” Native Max said in its feature.

As part of a question-and-answer piece of the interview, Native Max asked Kippenberger and Chupco what they loved most about Seminole culture.

“I love my people. I love our history, our homelands [and] our clothing,” Kippenberger said.

“I love the connectedness and our creativity,” Chupco said. “I am still amazed at the seamstresses within the community.”

The founder of Native Max is Kelly Holmes (Cheyenne River Lakota). It publishes content related to Indian Country that is “positive and inspiring.”

The issue featuring Kippenberger and Chupco is available in digital and print formats. Go to nativemaxmagazine.com for

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Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at damonscott@semtribe.com.
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