Join Paul G for an interview with former Miss Indian World Cheyenne Kippenberger. Cheyenne was Miss Indian World during the pandemic and held the title for 2 years. Hear about the challenges of representing Gathering of Nations and her tribe during Covid.
Cheyenne is a former Miss Florida Seminole, and uniquely the first Seminole woman to hold the prestigious title of Miss Indian World. She is passionate about sustaining Indigenous culture and healing her community. After an intense struggle with her own identity, mental health issues and the continuous battle against the public prejudice of those conditions, she now openly speaks about her experience with radical acceptance, depression, struggling in school, seeking help, and proudly embracing the challenges of her life.
As Miss Indian World, she served as a cultural goodwill ambassador representing all Native and Indigenous people globally. Throughout her reign, she aspired to break down the stigmas of mental health conversations, empower and encourage her people, and share her experiences as a young, mixed, Indigenous woman. As the founder and Co-Chairwoman of the “Healing The Circle In Our Tribal Communities,” a trauma-focused healing symposium, she sought out to create a safe space to discuss the many common traumas present in our Tribal communities. She was also chosen to serve as a Peer Guide for UNITY’s (United National Indian Tribal Youth) Healing Indigenous Lives Initiative program, which supports and enhances Native youth engagement with a focus on juvenile justice and delinquency prevention in Indian Country. – From CheyenneKippenberger.com
Crowning of Miss Indian World Video
Welcome to Pow Wow life podcast from PowWows.com, connecting you as a native culture since 1996. Here's your host, Paul Gowder.
Paul Gowder 00:17
Hello, and welcome back to another Pow Wow Life episode. I'm Paul Gowder, the founder of PowWows.com. Thank you for being here again this week. If you're new to the show, or new to PowWows.com, this is your place to come, explore, experience, and connect with Native American culture. We hope that this is a place for you to start exploring the culture whether you grew up on a reservation and your full blooded Native American or you're just now learning about Pow Wows and maybe you want to go to one for the first time, we're here for you and want to be your connection to the culture. On today's episode, I have an interview with the former Miss Indian world, Cheyenne Kippenberger, Cheyenne was a little bit unique in her experiences Miss Indian world because she served during quarantine and COVID, and all of the fun stuff that came with that. And so, she got to experience being Miss Indian world for two years. So, we'll talk to her a little bit about what that experience was like, and a little bit about what's going on with her. So that interview in just a minute, but I do have a couple of announcements. First, make sure you stay tuned at the end of the episode, I will give you this week's trivia question and see if you can win some of the PowWows.com stickers and prize packs and test your knowledge with that question at the end of the episode on say a special thank you to our patrons over at www.PowWowNation.com These are the folks that are making content like today's podcast possible as well as helping us hire and keep our great writers and do some other fun things this coming year so if you're interested in helping out with PowWows.com and really supporting us go check out our Patreon over at www.PowWowNation.com. Thank you all for being a part of that community really appreciate all that support alright so now let's get to the interview with Cheyenne Kippenberger?
Paul Gowder 03:21
I'm so excited to welcome to the show Cheyenne Kippenberger Miss Indian World for two terms it was amazing that you are you're able to represent gathering nations for that long, sad that we had to do it that way but Cheyenne thanks so much for being here.
Cheyenne KippenBerger 03:36
Oh no, so happy to be here. I appreciate the opportunity it's been a while since I've seen you since we talked.
Paul Gowder 03:42
I know that it was it was so much fun getting to do the virtual gathering and getting you know everybody together again and on that first zoom and everybody kind of getting to see old friends again. That was really fun. That was one of the highlights during the quarantine there, for those who out there watching who aren't familiar with you and your time as Miss Indian world, can you introduce yourself and tell us you know where you're from and a little bit about your background?
Cheyenne KippenBerger 04:08
Yeah, of course hi everybody <Native Language>. Everybody my English name is Cheyenne. My given name is Eete. I'm a citizen of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. I'm a former Miss Indian world. And yeah, it's like me in a nut really quick.
Paul Gowder 04:32
So, let's talk about Miss Indian world first, when have you been to gather before and when did you decide to run for Miss Indian world?
Cheyenne KippenBerger 04:41
You know, surprisingly, the year that I ran for Miss Indian world was the first time that I had ever been at the gathering of nations Pow Wow. And there had been a few opportunities when I was a little bit younger to go but it just never lined up and worked out and, yeah, next thing you know, you know, in 2019 I found myself clear and I was like, so just like starstruck by everything because it was everything that everybody tells you about gathering of nations. And you know, initially I had run for Miss Florida Seminole in 2018. That was my first time ever really running and any type of native pageant in that sense. And after I was crowned in 2018, literally the morning after at like, our celebratory brunch with the committee, Miss Wanda Bowers, who everybody knows came up to me. And she was like, she slaps this packet in front of me, she's like, here's your Miss Indian application. And I was like, ah, oh, like, what do you mean? I have been Miss Florida Seminole for 24 hours. And she was like, hey, look, she's like, every year, we send our Miss Florida Seminole for, she's like, you're not required. But she's like, if you're not ready to do that yet, just think about it. And so, I probably took me like a good 6, 7, 8 months to get comfortable with even the idea of running, and I got more comfortable in my position, you know, as an ambassador, representing my tribe. And, you know, I woke up one morning, and I was like, you know, like, what do I have to lose, I don't even really know that many people that ran to Miss Indian World. And I was like, that would be so cool to be able to share it with, you know, my kids and their kids one day. And so, I filled out the application. And then literally a few months later, I was in Albuquerque getting ready to compete in like, the biggest pageant in India country.
Paul Gowder 06:18
That's so awesome. And having spoken to other Miss Indian world in the past, you know, I've heard the Seminole really do they really do a great job of supporting their Miss Seminoles and sending them out to gathering it's great to have that kind of support system from your, from your own people. That's awesome. Oh, absolutely.
Cheyenne KippenBerger 06:35
I mean, we've been sending girls for years and years and years. And, you know, it's somewhat become like a tradition for our Miss Seminole to go and do that. And partially why I went through with it, like, I'm not going to be the one to break that. But, you know, not only the committee, but also the community, our council, everybody's families come together to support whoever it is that we're sending out there. And so, you know, there's a part where you're supposed to sell raffle tickets. And I remember, like posting it on my tribal Facebook page, and like, going like, to people's houses to sell tickets. And we have a native bowling league down here. And I used to go every Friday and go to the table selling my tickets. And, you know, it was, it was a really beautiful experience. And, you know, to see that people just genuinely want you to succeed in that way. And, you know, I remember is speaking with, you know, some of the elders in my community, they're like, we don't even care that you went, and just the fact that you're just going out there and representing us is what matters. And so, I definitely felt a big obligation to go out there and just put all of myself and all my heart into that competition.
Paul Gowder 07:42
That's great. So, you were crowned Miss Indian world in 2019. And the world was normal for a while for you, you know, so and like, we were talking before we started recording, you know, you did get to participate in a tribal affair. Y'all had some really cool stuff, the alligator wrestling and all kinds of it was an awesome live stream to watch. So, what was it like that first year? And what were some of the highlights that you got to experience?
Cheyenne KippenBerger 08:08
It was honestly beautiful. I think, you know, if there's anything that any girl wants as Miss Indian world, it's to try to like visit as many communities as they can and do as much outreach as they can for their platforms, and really just connect with Indian country. And, you know, I remember after I got crowned, I finally came home and like, I was kind of settling in, you know what I mean? And it's marinating, and I'm thinking to myself, what do you want to do with your year. And I remember thinking to myself, like, I'm just going to try to make myself as available as I can for our people all across Indian country, I'm going to try to get to as many places as I can, but I really wanted it to be this experience to where people really got to see who Cheyenne was at, at the core of all of it, you know, just the real Cheyenne not pageant Cheyenne are like what, who she was during the pageant which, and so I set the goal to just be really, really authentic, and everything that I did everywhere that I went everybody that I interacted with. And so, my first year was beautiful, you know, I felt like no matter where I visited, I got welcomed in with open arms. You know, I always had food on the table ready to be fed, you know, gifts or you know, the full nine yards, the people are so hospitable. But, you know, what made it most memorable was everybody that I just got to meet and, you know, our points of course, it's overwhelming because you have people wanting to take pictures and talk to you and everything. But, you know, even now, sometimes, I'll go places and I'm like, oh my god, I remember meeting you in North Carolina, like, how are you? How are your kids? And I always laughed, and I think to myself, like that's the most Indian thing, right? Like meeting somebody at a gas station in Oklahoma and then you run into each other in North Carolina like it's nothing and I had so many experiences like that, and I feel like I gained so much family and so many friends and I made so much Many great lifelong connections. And, you know, I think I had a year that any other Miss Indian world would have wished for. And I mean, it was cut a little bit short, because we went into lockdown of March. But I was grateful that I got to do my New Zealand trip, which was a really big goal of mine, it was on my bucket list for Miss Indian world to go out of the country. And literally, me, my dad headed out to New Zealand, we were there for like 10, 11 days. And as soon as we came back, everything was in lockdown. And so, I was really grateful that I at least got to have all of that time that I did, and I just made the most of it before we knew what was gonna happen with the pandemic.
Paul Gowder 10:35
Right. And I have to say, you know, following you throughout the two years, what you did on, I got to see you a gathering too, but to see what you what you did on social media was truly authentic. And it was, it was so much fun to watch all the stuff you were doing. And you really did show yourself in, in what you were posting on social media wasn’t just marketing hype or anything else. So, you really did show yourself that was fun to watch for those two years.
Cheyenne KippenBerger 11:02
Oh, I appreciate that. Because I put so much like time and thinking into the things that I would post and I, you know, and of course, you know, as an ambassador with that type of platform, you have to be cognizant of like the messages you're putting out and the things that you share. And, you know, I'm thinking of like, what, what little girl Cheyenne want to see. And I just remembered like, not feeling really comfortable in my skin not feeling beautiful when I was younger, and everything. And I was like, I just want everybody to feel beautiful. And so, you know, I would share the really glamorous and fun parts of me being Miss Indian World, which was traveling and like getting to where my beautiful traditional outfits and the Crown and the sash, but there was also really tough parts to Miss Indian world, which was, you know, being like mentally exhausted at points, there was a lot of low points where, you know, I was away from my family for a long time, like certain points of time. And, you know, I wanted the entire experience to be shared with everybody so that it didn't just look like it was this glamorous thing all the time. Because in reality, it's not, you know, you're, you're not only are you making a lot of sacrifice, but your family's making a lot of sacrifice, and you have so many people rooting for you to just have this beautiful and, you know, like, impactful year, and that pressure builds up and it becomes really heavy when you're by yourself. And so I was really open about the mental health aspect of being this Indian world and having that big platform and that audience and that following and, you know, I just wanted people to know that even Miss Indian world has really bad days, Miss India World has anxiety, you know, being open about the fact that I was like even a high school dropout, like people were always like, wow, that happened. I'm like, yeah, like, I didn't always have it together, man. But it's okay, you'll figure it out. And so that was, you know, the, like I said, the goal that I had set for myself was to just be real. That was so important to me. And so, hearing you say that, you know, I really do appreciate it a lot. Thank you.
Paul Gowder 12:54
Oh, thank you. It was it was really, really inspiring to watch throughout the year. And I know that you are really tight probably hundreds and hundreds of people, and especially little girls I know. So, my daughter that was the first time in 2019 that she actually got to come with me to gathering and so meeting you and seeing you there she was just like oh my god, which was so much fun. So, she followed you throughout the whole time and it meant a lot to her so that was that was really cool. So, then we shifted, and the world changed and it but, in the gathering, asked you to stay on as Miss Indian world. How did that change for you? And you know, how did it affect you guys down in Florida.
Cheyenne KippenBerger 13:34
It was really hard, you know, emotionally physically, spiritually, it was really hard for everybody. And I remember like literally coming home on this like really big high because I was just in New Zealand as Miss Indian world, and we weren't allowed to go outside. And so, there was kind of tackling this, this change of being on the go nonstop for almost 9, 10 months to literally not being able to just like go to 7-11 and it took a really big toll emotionally on me like I really experienced a like a deep depressive episode after all that happened. And I was upset because I felt like not just me, but everybody we had all these events and all these things that were upcoming, and the rug just got pulled out from all of us. And our entire sense of normalcy was essentially robbed from us and like an instant actually. And so, it was difficult, you know, but with honestly the support of like my family, my siblings, especially the committee to I had really open and like vulnerable honest conversations with all of them. I remember even hopping on a zoom call with everybody and just telling them like, I am so sad right now and I don't know how to get myself out of this. And we have the conversation of me continuing my brain which you know, obviously was really, really exciting, but it was a little bit bittersweet to think that okay, hey, I'm gonna get this extended here, but what's gonna happen, you know, like, what's gonna happen with this pandemic. And so initially, when I, when we decided that I was going to continue my reign, we were thinking, oh, in a few months, it's going to be over, and we're going to be back to normal. So I was like, ready to be back to Pow Wows by August honestly, and when that didn't happen, you know, it kind of felt like I took another plummet, and I decided to just share that with people about, like, how upset I was, and I know that everybody's upset, but maybe if we could just all be upset together and talk about it, like it will feel a little bit better. So, I really, really just tried to put my best foot forward. And I'm so thankful for the support system that I have, because I, I recognize that this was a journey that all of us have experienced together through this pandemic. But it was really hard to take on that obligation of still being there for Indian country as Miss Indian world, you know what I mean? And, and that's when social media was like, this is gonna be my best friend, like, how do we shift this and make it even more fun for everybody. And that's where we just had these neat ideas of doing Instagram live and having like, the cake contest, and all this stuff. And that made me feel connected to everybody. And as much as I had done it, to connect with everybody, in turn, that actually filled me up with all of like that good medicine that I really needed at that point, because I was living by myself through the majority of the pandemic. And so being from coming from being surrounded by people, practically the majority of my time to being confined with like just my dogs, that hurt me a lot. And I was really, really sad. But because of Facebook, because of Twitter, because of Instagram, and YouTube, and all these things that we got to continue with connecting with each other. And I think that when we look at our people, we know we're already resilient. We've always known that. But this was like a different chapter that we had to take on. And I'm so proud of our people for taking it on the way that we have. And they created, you know, that social distance power Pow Wow was like the coolest thing ever. And that's like a huge Facebook group that's still ongoing. And, you know, people were coming up with all of these different ways for us to interact and connect. And it made me so proud to be a native woman to just be a native person in honesty.
Paul Gowder 17:16
Yeah, it was really fun and what she was doing that there's so much stuff that came out of that it was really amazing. And so, I see, you're still continuing to speak on you on your platform and continuing to do stuff on social media. See, you're involved in a woman summit coming up?
Cheyenne KippenBerger 17:33
Yes, yes, shout out to Ashley, she was able to also get me involved with that, which was really neat. You know, I was a little like, scared, you know, coming to the end of my reign as Miss Indian world, because for three years, I was a princess. Like, this is kind of who I am, what's gonna happen after this. And I remember even sitting in my therapy session with my therapist, and I'm like, who am I going to be if I'm not missing the world. And I had to kind of walk myself through that process that transition. And I just want to say thank you to everybody that has still thought of me to be included in their conferences, their events, keynotes, whatever it is, because you guys helped me realize that I'm not this Miss Indian world. But you know, this is something that I thoroughly enjoy doing. I love giving back to our people sharing my experiences all of these things, if it's education, advocacy, you know it. We all do this every single day for our people. And so, it was, it was a weird transition, but it worked out really beautifully. And I just really appreciate the fact that people still think of me in that way.
Paul Gowder 18:41
That's great. Okay, I'm excited to see how that's gonna go with the Women's Summit. So, what are the future plans for you now? Where are you headed?
Cheyenne KippenBerger 18:50
So I'm actually coming to the end of my internship with the Center for Native American youth at the Aspen Institute, and I'm actually going to be taking on a full time position as their communications coordinator also, which is really, really exciting because, you know, initially with Miss Indian world, like I just had to figure out social media like I didn't really have somebody like, like all the graphics and everything that everybody thought I was literally creating myself. And I think sometimes there's this illusion that I have this like, like social media team, I was like, no, I did all of that myself. And you know, with all that experience that I gained, because you know, my virtual year that drove me into having this internship with CNY and now I have the opportunity to help uplift their social media platforms and their website and I get to do a lot of native youth outreach, which you know, again, I love doing stuff like that and so it's been a beautiful thing to see all of these this like skills that I acquired to miss Indian world like I still get to apply it into being like this young professional. And so, I'm you know, I'm thinking about going back to school I've been, I just moved into my house on the rez, which is really awesome. I have been on the housing since I was like 18. So, yeah, I mean, it's really awesome, I definitely see this this change from being like this really young, 21-year-old, 22-year-old, like, maybe I should run for Miss Seminole to like being so comfortable, and I feel so established. And I genuinely am, like, very proud of myself, because I wasn't always this put together and I didn't always speak this, like this great and things like that. And so, you know, I am just grateful for the journey, like shout out to the creator, man.
Paul Gowder 20:31
That's so great. It's a great outlook to have coming through what all we've been through. So, you know, I'm always I always asked guests, you know, what kind of advice would you have? And I know, you talked about, you know, what your younger self would think. So, what would you tell your younger self now that you know, looking back and or young girls that are aspiring to be either their tribal Princess, or maybe even aspiring one day to try to run for Miss Indian World?
Cheyenne KippenBerger 20:57
Well, first, I would tell younger Cheyenne, like, it's gonna be okay, like, you're gonna figure it out, it's not always gonna be this messy, and you're not gonna feel this like all over the place. And to younger girls or women that are thinking about doing this Miss New World or thinking about running. And any pageant, really just do it. Like, don't think about the winning aspect of it, don't think about, you know, if you're gonna have like, the best jewelry, they're the best dresses, just do it, because it's on your mind for a reason. And I am like a really, really firm believer that the Creator has these plans for us these paths that we're supposed to take. And it may not be necessarily like being Miss Indian world or being the title holder, but it's gaining the experience that you had in that pageant. And native pageantry is beautiful, because you're building this this bond with these young girls, these young women throughout that entire pageant weekend, or pageant week, and you become part of the sisterhood. And you literally make lifelong friends, all of the girls that I ran with in Miss Indian world, we all talk all the time, they'd become some of my closest friends even. And I encourage you all to take that experience, and just enjoy it for what it is. Don't think about the end game of what it was because Miss Indian world was one of the things that was psyching me out in the beginning was like, well, you're going to go over there, and you're gonna lose, like, what's the point of that? And when I finally realized that it really wasn't about getting the title, but it was about like putting the best version of myself out there in this like, really uncomfortable, vulnerable position of literally being judged by complete strangers. It's like, what's, how much? How much scarier does it get than that? I was like, you know, that shows that you have guts and honesty. And so, take that leap, take that jump and just enjoy the process of like practicing your talent, getting your dresses ready with like your aunts and you and your family members or your community members. And, you know, learning to speak your language to introduce yourself, like all of these things are building you up to become like a bigger, stronger, more beautiful native woman. No title or crown is going to do that. You do that for yourself. And so just do it. And if you have any questions about prep work, or like what you should do message me like, I always tell people, I'm like not Miss Indian World. But I'm still aunty MIW, here for all of it.
Paul Gowder 23:16
Well, thank you so much. That was really great advice. And I think, you know, I've talked, like I said earlier, I've talked to lots of Miss Indian World or contestants that run, and they all come out of it saying that the friends they make there are lifelong. And it's you build this network of support, and these relationships. So that's pretty, pretty awesome to always hear that. That's what's coming out of that that week that you got to spend in Albuquerque. That's great. Again, thank you so much for spending a little time with me. I hope we will be back in Albuquerque together this year. And get to go back together and again. But thank you for spending time with us. And I hope everything stays safe down there in Florida for you.
Cheyenne KippenBerger 23:56
Oh, I appreciate it. Thank you so much for having me again. And it's been so great to see you after so long and like fingers crossed, you're like we can get through this next few month and hopefully things will turn around and we'll be able to all be in Albuquerque together.
Paul Gowder 24:11
Thanks so much. Have a good night. Thanks, Cheyenne, for being here. And I cannot wait to see you in just a few short weeks. We'll be back in Albuquerque at the 2022 gathering of nations Pow Wow. If you don't know about gathering, it is the largest Pow Wow and it has not been held, as we talked about with Cheyenne since 2019. It's been held in person since 2019. So, we're heading back to Albuquerque and PowWows.com. Getting back to normal, we will be streaming the Pow Wow live all weekend long. You can watch all the singing and dancing live on pals.com. And we'll have a second stream dedicated to just stage 49. So that's the special musical performers, the comedians, the dance groups and all of that special talent outside at stage 49 will have that as a completely separate stream. So, you can watch both of those. And of course, we'll have all of that archived if you miss any of it. So be sure to go check that out over a palace comm cannot wait to see you. If you're going in person, please make sure you stop by and say hello. I'd love to love to put a face to the name and just say hey, and of course I just want to get back out there and meet all of you now that we can do all this in person again. Alright, so let's get to today's trivia question. Cheyenne was Miss Indian World for those last two years that they Miss Indian World, taken a little bit of break now. We're gonna have a new one crowned in 2022. But here's your trivia question for this week. Who was the first Miss Indian world of do a little research on this one unless you just are had no and have been around for a long time? So good luck on that. If you know the right answer you think you do head on over to PowWows.com. T\here, we have a place where you can enter your answer. And next week, we will draw from all the correct answers a winner and you'll get a PowWows.com prize pack. Thanks again for being here, another episode of The Pow Wow Life Podcast. I'm Paul Gowder and I am the founder of PowWows.com. And I so appreciate your support. And I cannot wait to hopefully see you on the Pow Wow trail this year. We're back in in person. It's so great to see. hope I'll get to see you soon. And have a great week.
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Last Updated on January 18, 2023 by Paul G