By Latoya Lonelodge
Displaying poise and grace Miss Indian World has all the qualities a princess encompasses and more. She’s charming, she’s beautiful, she’s humorous and kind … she’s Miss Indian World Cheyenne Kippenberger. And just like her Indian name, Eete, which translates to fire, she has a spark that ignites a warm welcoming in each person she meets.
Kippenberger, Seminole Tribe of Florida-Hollywood Reservation citizen, was crowned the new princess at the Gathering of Nations Powwow in April 2019. With a new crown comes new responsibilities, and with Miss Indian World’s duties, Kippenberger has a lot to look forward to in traveling across country visiting Tribal Nations and learning about other tribes. For the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes 30th annual Oklahoma Indian Nations (OIN) powwow held Aug. 2-4, Kippenberger was invited as a special guest to articipate in the weekend’s powwow and activities. “I was really excited when they told me I was getting to come to Oklahoma City and El Reno … I was excited because I have only driven through Oklahoma City so I was like, ‘oh wow I actually get to see things this time,’ but I was really excited to see the itinerary, I couldn’t believe the things that were organized for me, I’m incredibly honored,” Kippenberger said.
With Kippenberger’s honor also came excitement as she said Oklahoma has such a heavy presence of Native Americans. “There’s 39 different Tribal Nations and communities here and coming from a state where there’s only two federally recognized tribes, getting to be in a place like this where there’s such a heavy presence, it’s almost like being at my home away from home, and everybody’s been so welcoming and so kind and I’ve had nothing but a great time out here and I can’t wait for the rest of today and tomorrow in all honesty, it’s really amazing to be out here,” Kippenberger said.
With a full agenda ahead of her on Friday, Aug. 2, Kippenberger was scheduled to tour the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum (AICCM), tour the Oklahoma governor’s mansion, meet with El Reno City Mayor Matthew White for a press conference, meet and greet with the R.E.Sp.E.C.T. Youth Council, as well as meet with Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes’ Gov. Reggie Wassana, make an appearance at the Buffalo 5k Run and Walk and participate in several OIN and Summerfest activities.
In having the opportunity to tour and experience firsthand the AICCM and the Oklahoma governor’s mansion, Kippenberger’s enthusiasm told all. “The American Indian Cultural Center and Museum was really neat, I’ve been to other cultural centers, I’ve been to my own museum, but to get to see what happens behind the scenes was really cool, to see the construction, the planning, the detail that goes into making a place what it is, especially something that significant, that’s not covering just the Native tribes to this land but the 39 in total is really amazing and the way that they’ve managed to encompass everybody and take bits and pieces of everybody’s community, everybody’s traditions and even find the commonalities between everybody … I was super impressed. I can’t wait for the opening and I think it’s going to be a really beautiful thing that will just be like another pillar of bringing everybody together,” Kippenberger said.
The AICCM is proposed to officially open its doors in May 2021. Kippenberger also visited the governor’s mansion and was formally introduced to the current, 26th First Lady of Oklahoma Sarah Hazen, wife of Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt “The governor’s mansion was really cool, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, all I kept thinking was good posture, keep smiling,” Kippenberger said with a giggle.
Kippenberger continued to say, “But Sarah was a sweetheart, the tour was really cool, to hear the history that is inside the house itself and everything from the paintings, like the tables that were round, the rugs, the china, even the chairs for their dining room I was really impressed with and to be able to share that with the first Native American family that’s in the governor’s mansion of Oklahoma was really cool. I didn’t know that I was the first Miss Indian World to go there either … I’m so excited that I got to do that, it was beautiful, we kind of touched on some of my platforms what I plan on doing with Miss Indian World and it was cool. We spoke on mental health a little bit and it was nice to learn about their family and their journey of getting into the mansion and I wish nothing but the best for them,” Kippenberger said.
With plans to visit Cheyenne and Arapaho country, Kippenberger could hardly contain her excitement as she spoke about her anticipated plans. “I’m super excited to see the youth council, I met them briefly at UNITY and just the welcoming that I got at the airport really touched my heart … I’m really excited for tonight, I’m really excited to learn new things about the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribe just because coming here, the only other people I’ve really been able to connect with was my sister’s husband’s family, they’re Choctaw, and so getting the opportunity to learn about differences and things we have in common as Native people is what I’m really excited for, I’ve already learned so much just in this morning that I’ve been here so I’m excited to meet them, I’m excited to sit down and speak with the kids. I hope to connect with the community and I’m really excited for tonight,” Kippenberger said.
With being in a position representing all Indigenous tribes comes great responsibility, Kippenberger said that she looks forward to the opportunities most where she’s able to visit with different Tribal Nations and communities. “I’ve connected with people through college, even things like Twitter and Instagram, but being able to come and visit communities, if it means them sharing ceremony with me, if it means joining them in their powwows, if it means joining a round dance, it always routes back to being a community no matter where you’re from and I feel as Native people, we’re very hospitable and everywhere that I’ve gone I’ve just been welcomed with open arms and if it means having a meal, if it means sharing a dance, I always take a little bit home with me every single time and I hope that I leave a little bit of myself there as well,” Kippenberger said.
Miss Indian World, fashioned beautifully with handmade regalia and a fully beaded sash, with dazzling and sparkling beadwork displayed on her crown shining everywhere she walks, Kippenberger explained what it truly means to hold the Miss Indian World title with honor. “It’s a responsibility, it’s a public serving position to the Native American and Indigenous people everywhere, not just North America, not just Canada, but the Pacific Islands and New Zealand and Australia, your responsibility is to represent all of us and in beauty and in grace, to be able to share not just my own tribe’s culture but to show good representation and not just for little girls or people even my age but for everybody and to show that we can be in these spaces and we’re still here, we’re resilient, we’re thriving and this is not even just the beginning, we’re in the middle but it’s going to keep on going and overall, the gist of it is being a cultural ambassador and it’s an incredible honor to be Miss Indian World, it’s something that I literally never would’ve thought in my deepest dreams and sometimes I wake up and I still can’t believe it,” Kippenberger said.
El Reno City Mayor Matthew White also honored Kippenberger with a key to the city of El Reno and a Proclamation declaring Aug. 2 as Miss Indian World Cheyenne Kippenberger day at a press conference.