The Cheyenne Girl Whose Heart Will Never Be On The Ground

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By Rosalia Badhorse

My heart and soul were specially crafted in the hills and pine trees of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana. Those hills and trees instilled in me a strong love for the land and all the elements of the universe. As a little girl, I explored my ancestors’ land, felt the grasses and soil beneath my bare feet, and inhaled the pine scented wind –making me feel whole and happy. During thunderstorms, I was always out dancing in the rain. With every strike of thunder, I would pull my hair and stretch my arms up toward the sky. My ke’éehe and mémééhe (grandma and grandpa) told me that Cheyennes will become tall and strong, and grow long hair if they pulled and stretched when the Thunder Beings visited us. Today, I am actually the shortest female in my family, but I know a childhood of pulling and stretching has at least elongated my Cheyenne heart and soul.

Mé’eóó’e naheševe. Na’tsehestahe. Mo’ȯhtávȯheomenéno na’hestahe. Ne’so’e hohta naha na’nestohe aa’nama. My name is Rosalia Badhorse; my Cheyenne name is Outstanding Woman, and I am honored to share with you who I am, and my vision for the candidacy for Miss Indian World. I am from the Black Lodge district of the Northern Cheyenne Nation in Montana. I have been on this earth for 23 winters now. My (s)heroes are Toh’veotse’e, Vóestaa’e, Hotómo’óme, Hotóhké’e, and Ma’etomoná’e. This is the lineage of strong Tsehtseh’stahstotse (Cheyenne) women that I come from. It’s important that I acknowledge them because women hold the most sacred role in my nation. We have a proverb that says, “A nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground. Then it is finished, no matter how brave its warriors or how strong their weapons.” This teaching has centuries of sacred connections to my hestaneo’e (peoples) past and present – all through the strength and guidance of our women. Today, we face new battles, but I have accepted the complex challenges of being Indigenous in the 21st century. In everything I do, my heart is always at the forefront, because that is where our strength comes from.

The post-trauma era of genocide and colonization –which is the effects of drugs, alcohol, and violence – has touched my life by landmarks of loved ones who have moved on to the spirit world. Genocide and colonization struck me hardest when my uncle passed. He was a quirky 500–pound Indian man that stood over six feet tall. His large physique made him look intimidating, but he was my goofy uncle who always had a boom box and danced to songs like, “Can’t Touch This” by MC Hammer, proudly shaking everything he had. My uncle was so full of life and had a joke for literally everything. When he died of heart complications from meth use, my spirit sent heavy cries to the next camp. Ever since the day I lost my big teddy bear of an uncle, my heart has expanded and stretched around every Indigenous person, cherishing them, and wanting to work harder for them. Consequently, I see the title of Miss Indian World as a chance to do that by speaking out against substance abuse and encouraging our people to be healthy.

One of my hobbies is regalia making. I love constructing powwow regalia as it makes me feel connected to my roots as a young Cheyenne woman. In the old days, Cheyenne women were initiated into special societies for being skilled artisans. In 2016, I decided to share my beading and sewing knowledge with youth by launching an after school program called the “Powwow Project,” and my work was jumpstarted by a $10,000 Dreamstarter grant from Oglala Olympic Gold Medalist Billy Mills. My program gives young Cheyenne an opportunity to re-connect to our ancestors by teaching them Cheyenne regalia making, empowering them to preserve the artistic elements of our cultural identity. Traditional arts and crafts have always been a passion of mine; I would love to share this past-time on a broader scale with youth across Indian country as Miss Indian World.

When I attended the Gathering of Nations for the first time at 14 years old, Miss Indian World delivered a speech that awoke my passion for re-learning my culture and standing up for the things that matter most to me. In my eyes, Miss Indian World was a modern superhero that was defeating colonization and genocide with intellectual arrows crafted with the power of education and ancestral wisdom. Now at 23 years old, I view the title of Miss Indian World as a chance to finally live my dream of using my voice as a pillar to conquer genocide and colonization in Indian country, too. I also see the title as a chance to carry on my tribe’s tradition of being a strong Cheyenne woman whose heart will never be on the ground.  Nea’eše (thank you) to the GON and MIW committee for your time and for the opportunity of a lifetime for young Indigenous women such as myself.