South Dakota: Tashina Red Hawk crowned Miss Indian World
Tashina Red Hawk has been crowned Miss Indian World 2022, the most prestigious title for a Native American woman to hold. Red Hawk is from Mission, South Dakota on the Sicangu Lakota Reservation.
At 18 years old, Red Hawk was the youngest competitor during the Gathering of Nations Powwow ambassador competition in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which ended on May 1. The four-day competition consisted of five categories: personal interviews, talent presentations, Stage 49 public speaking, dance competition, and an essay.
During the same week, she and her horse, Tokala, won Best of Show in the Horse and Rider Regalia Parade. Her father and his horse, Akicita, won the mens’ category. “That was a wonderful time,” she says.
“All of our animals that we love and cherish, we give them Lakota names, because it honors them in a way and gives them that sacred value that we hold for them,” says Red Hawk. “Tokala” loosely translates to the name of a warrior society represented by the kit fox. “Akicita” translates to what would have been the policemen of tribal communities centuries ago.
Red Hawk, whose Lakota name is Anpetu Yuonihan Win (Honors The Day Woman), lives a life rooted in tradition, heritage, family, and culture. She lives on and owns her great great grandmother’s land on the Little White River. From her back porch, she has views of cottonwood trees and her herd of Appaloosa horses. She also performs the songs that her same great great grandmother, Viola Good Voice, wrote for ceremonies and powwows.
For Red Hawk, the Lakota language is not “dead” as some claim. “I’m blessed to have the opportunity to grow up where I did. My language is spoken all around me. There’s classes to take to learn the language. Language represents who we are, the people who came before us, but even our families,” she says. Each Sioux tribe (Dakota, Lakota, Nakota) has their own dialect, as well as each family, but they are also united by their similarities.
Music is central to her family, as well. Red Hawk plays 12 instruments including piano, violin, bass, upright bass, drum set, electric guitar, flute, and saxophone. She sings her great great grandmother’s ceremonial songs, and also dances in the Northern Traditional style.
Red Hawk was actually born in Portland, Oregon. Her parents met and fell in love at a powwow while her dad was stationed in Seattle in the Navy. They decided to return to her father’s roots in South Dakota so that their daughter could be raised in his family’s rich tradition. “If I wanted to go to a powwow, I could just walk out my back door. If I want to go to a ceremony with my family, we could call each other and meet up. You can’t get that in a city,” she says.
Her love for animals, which ventures into the spiritual, will influence Red Hawk’s path in life. “I want to be a veterinarian. People could see that as attaining a high degree or strengthening my education. How I see it is I grew up as a Lakota. Lakota are referred to as the Buffalo People. Buffalo were our houses, food, and clothes. Throughout my life, I grew up with this understanding that animals are a part of who we are and we would not be alive without them,” Red Hawk says.
Her prayer life even influences the way she trains horses. “When we go to train a horse, we approach them at their left shoulder first. Different traditional horse trainers will tell you that there are four quarters to a horse: the youth stage, teenager, adult, and grandparent stage. Even when we pray, we pray to the four directions, we address horses, buffalo, elk, and groundhogs. We address all of our nations because we understand that they all came to us for a reason,” she says.
At just 18 years old, Red Hawk is already very accomplished. She held the South Dakota High School Rodeo Association Ambassador title in 2019, and this year, she simultaneously completed her senior year of high school and freshman year of college as a Distinguished Scholar. She will be starting her sophomore year at South Dakota State University in the fall, working toward her dream of studying veterinary science.
Busy as she was, Red Hawk still found time in the last year to operate her own coffee shop. “During the pandemic, the community seemed like it was getting very gray. A lot of people were developing hardship and sadness. My community needed an uplifting boost again. I knew coffee could be refreshing,” she says. Red Hawk’s teachers and professors agreed that she would log in to online school, listen to lectures on her headphones, and make coffee as a way to help pay for her college and bring light to the community.
Red Hawk is passionate about inspiring youth. “My platform really revolves around two things: reigniting our cultural pride and supporting and encouraging our youth with education […] My grandmother told my dad, ‘We need people strong in both worlds.’ What she meant by that is that we need people strong in our cultural traditions and heritage, but also strong in the outside world of financing, networking, and communication. That’s something that’s stuck with me, so I really hope to encourage our youth and set an example for them,” she says.
If you would like to book Miss Indian World, Tashina Red Hawk, for speaking engagements, please email Melissa Sanchez, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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