Miss INFR is at home in Pine Ridge
Young women from South Dakota don’t often get national notoriety, Kade Bettelyoun, on the other hand, found herself in the Las Vegas spotlight last month. She was awarded Miss Indian National Finals Rodeo 2019 Oct. 26 during the INFR championship round at the South Point Casino.
The 19-year-old got her start in pageants in 2013 when she tried out for Miss Oglala Nation Rodeo Queen at Pine Ridge at the age of 15.
“It was just a really simple, one-day pageant at the rodeo grounds,” Kade said. “I got that title, and it just took off from there.”
The INFR pageant ties together Kade’s love of rodeo and her passion for the Great Horse Nation of the Oglala Lakota. Instead of evening gowns, Kade, who placed second in this section, and her five competitors sported authentic, handmade Native American regalia.
“I wore a traditional handmade buckskin dress, sewn with sinew, and adorned with elk teeth. What they would have worn pre-reservation days, before my tribe was colonized, before we had access to trade cloth, and we only had the animals around us available to us,” Kade said. “After the settlers came, that’s when we had access to cloth and regular fabric.”
As the youngest competitor, Kade’s favorite portion, horsemanship, went well for her, despite her inability to practice. Due to an onslaught of snow when Kade received her horsemanship pattern, she wasn’t able to practice like most of the other girls who reside in warmer climates.
“The horsemanship was so fun. Most of them had kind of an advantage and got to practice the pattern before,” Kade said. “I looked forward to that the most, and it was a big part of the overall score, 41 percent. The pattern coordinator said one of the judges scored me 275 out of 280.”
The simple reining pattern they were required to complete consisted of a figure eight at a lope, a few rollbacks, a sliding stop, a queen lap, and a lap with a flag. She rode her nine-year-old blue roan mare Kipler, registered as Shiny Blue Hiney.
“I think her strongest point was definitely the horsemanship competition,” Kade’s mom JoDee said. “She and her horse get along really well together.”
Kipler joined the Bettelyoun herd after Kade’s “rez pony” Jeremy, as she called him, was stolen in 2014. Kade and Jeremy had qualified for INFR in junior barrel racing in 2010 and 2011, so this trip to South Point wasn’t her first but felt far different.
“When we first made it in 2010, it was just kind of like, ‘Cool! We made it!’” Kade said. “We didn’t expect to win barrels. The pageant, we were in it to win it. It’s such a huge difference for me and my family.”
The Bettelyoun family consists of Kade and her mom JoDee, who made the long trip with her daughter last month with the trailer in tow loaded down with Kipler, endless outfits, six hats, six pairs of boots, a study binder, and a different mindset.
“I really want to inspire the next generation of cowboys and cowgirls,” she said. “Where would rodeo be without the little ones? It all starts in junior rodeo, riding little ponies around. I want to help inspire on other reservations and my own too.”
Kade received a perfect score on the written test and received best essay, but she is unsure how she landed in the speech portion, though she thinks she did “ok”, she said.
JoDee has already seen the start of a transformation in her daughter from competing in and winning the pageant.
“She is opening up and getting to talk to more people,” JoDee said. “She is learning to meet and greet new people, and learning to push her boundaries and actually engage in conversations with people she’s never met before.”
JoDee knows her daughter has the ability to be a fine rodeo queen, and looks forward to a year of growth; she said she couldn’t be more proud.
“She is gaining confidence in her abilities, which I know she has. I know she can do things; she just needs the confidence in herself,” JoDee said of her Kade. “She did this all on her own, so I know she can do great things.”
Kade is working toward a career in the health care field, specifically mental health.
“I think it’s kind of forgotten on the sidelines,” she said. “I would like to raise awareness.”
Beginning her college education in high school at Ogalala Community College, Kade transitioned to the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, where she was recruited to join the rodeo team.
“Coach Todd Kirchenbaum reached out to me and saw how I ride and excel in events and offered me a spot on the team,” Kade said. She competed in barrel racing, pole bending, breakaway roping, and goat tying in high school rodeo, and in barrels and breakaway in college.
Kade is currently studying at the University of South Dakota, where the lack of rodeo program resulted in Kade unhooking the trailer and putting up her horse for the time being.
“It’s harder to travel to college rodeos as a single competitor,” Kade said. “I had my Women’s Professional Rodeo Association permit for a while, then I got back into queening, so that got put on hold. I would eventually like to try my hand at it.”
In order to be one of the six competitors of Miss INFR this year, Kade had to submit an application and fit the requirements of being a Native American female ranging from 18 to 25 years of age and must have a GED or high school diploma.
In addition to Miss INFR, Kade was also awarded the title of Miss Congeniality.