Native News Network Staff in Entertainment. Discussion »
LAS VEGAS Call them the First Ladies of Professional Indian Rodeo, young American Indian women who combine beauty, brains, and talent to represent the rodeo world in both the United States and Canada as Miss Indian Rodeo.
Begun by the Indian National Finals Rodeo shortly after the rodeo itself was established, the Miss Indian Rodeo program sputtered a bit at the beginning before re-building the program into what it is today. Although it took a few years to find firm footing, the first Miss Indian Rodeo (1979) continued to garner additional honors as Miss Indian Rodeo of North America and, ultimately, Miss Indian Rodeo America.
Navajo Vonna Victor wore the INFR crown in 2008 before becoming coordinator of the pageant.
“I didn't know what I was getting myself into, but I enjoyed the reign and once I passed down the title, it was hard to not be in the spotlight anymore,”
There's a lot of spotlighting to the lucky woman who has the queen crown placed on her cowgirl hat, like current title holder Sonyah Shae 'Soni' Clifford, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe who calls the Pine Ridge Reservation community of Rockford her hometown.
Clifford, a high school athlete and an inductee into the National Honor Society, now attends South Dakota State University where she continues to be a positive role model for younger Native Americans. In her role as queen, she visits schools, attends traditional community gatherings, participates in as many tour and regional rodeos as possible and helps promote Indian rodeo.
“One of my main goals I wanted to accomplish during my reign was to help get the Indian National Finals Rodeo Association more widely recognized and toward that end, I've already attended 17 different events as Miss Indian Rodeo,”
In additional to visits at schools and hospitals, Clifford has attended professional, regional, and tour rodeos and plans to be at a rodeo every weekend over the summer to continue her promotional efforts.
“I still feel eager to do more,”
“Miss Indian Rodeo is the official ambassador for the Indian National Finals Rodeo, INFR contestants, Indian Professional Rodeo, spectators, stock contractors, sponsors, rodeo officials and all Native American tribes throughout North America and First Nations of Canada,”
It is not a job to be taken lightly.
Requirements for Miss Indian Rodeo candidates (applications for 2013 consideration are due no later than October 1) call for would-be royalty to be females ages 18 to 25, high school graduate (or GED or fulltime student), single, never married, and no dependents.
Candidates are judged on a point system for their horsemanship, personal interviews with pageant judges, a speech "How has rodeo or the Western way of life shaped me into a role model for other youth?", an essay on how a contestant would provide a positive role model for the INFR, and a presentation in traditional tribal regalia. Title aspirants are also asked to sell raffle tickets with ticket sales used as a contest tie-breaker if necessary.
There is a strict Code of Conduct to be followed with severe penalties for violations. "You and your horse must always be neat and groomed and proper horsemanship displayed. Always conduct yourself like a lady, gracious and polite at all times. Inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated and will result in disqualification."
You'll find Ms. Clifford at this year's INFR, November 5 to 9 in Las Vegas, serving as a "Meet and Greet" Ambassador, attending all events like the Back Number and Buckle ceremonies, and during performances carrying the American flag, working as a cattle pusher during timed events, and leading the victory lap with round winners after each event.
posted August 20, 2013 6:50 am edt