Reigning Miss Indian World Cheyenne Kippenberger of the Seminole tribe in Florida, USA spent her last day in Aotearoa learning about how Māori tell their stories on television. An important mission of the Miss Indian World Pageant is to empower indigenous women to stand as ambassadors, of their peoples to the world.
It’s no surprise then, that Kippenberger, whose ancestral name is Cheyenne Eete, wants to change the way her people are depicted on television and the big screen. Cheyenne Eete says:
“We really get diminished to these negative stereotypes most times.
“It’s always shirtless on horseback with the long hair with the wind blowing or cowboys and Indians.
“And we’re so much more than that, you know, we’re doctors, we’re teachers, we’re performers, we’re artists, that’s what I want the world to see,”
After winning the Pow-Wow Miss Indian World, she has worked to build networks. It was important for her to include Ngāi Māori in those partnerships as well. Cheyenne Eete explained to Te Ao Māori News that she has been observing Māori broadcasting for quite a while now.
She took the time to explain the differences between indigenous pageantry and mainstream competitions.
“Pageantry, you know the bathing suits and the heels and the gowns. You know not to knock anything of beauty pageantry but indigenous pageantry is a big thing back in America and Canada.
“Throughout this week-long competition you’re competing in public speaking, interviewing, traditional presentation, traditional dancing as well as an essay.”
Cheyeene Eete says the sisterhood built amongst her fellow competitors is uplifting.
“My other friend Willow she did a presentation, in her tribe they write their life story on a piece of hide and it goes in a circle, so you’re pretty much responsible for documenting your own life story.
“I’ve seen a girl do basketry, sewing, on girl brought a canoe on stage. One from my tribe brought an alligator.”
With a lineage of storytelling and a new network of indigenous partnerships. No doubt Cheyenne Eete will be on our screens in the near future.