NDSU Student Wins ‘Highest Honor’ for Indigenous Women

LARA PIESCH | THE SPECTRUM Cheyenne Brady, the winner of the 2015 Miss Indian World pageant, poses Friday afternoon by Askanase Hall.
Cheyenne Brady, the winner of the 2015 Miss Indian World
pageant, poses Friday afternoon by Askanase Hall.

She seems like a prototypical college student.

The senior majoring in psychology parks in the T-Lots, stresses over her upcoming graduation and relishes Sonic Slushes.

“I keep to myself,” Cheyenne Brady said.

“But it’s something I’ve always wanted, the title.”

Some of Brady’s professors may not even know she won the 2015 Miss Indian World title on April 25.

“I didn’t really use the pageant as an excuse,” Brady, a New Town, N.D., native said of her week-long absence with a laugh. “It’s been crazy. But I’m handling it.”

Brady, who hails from the Sac and Fox, Cheyenne and Hidatsa tribes, became the 32nd winner of the continental pageant, which has featured indigenous women from as far as Canada to South America.

“It’s the highest honor you can hold as a young indigenous woman,” she said.

She is the first Native American to bring the crown home to North Dakota.

For others

Brady was born in Pawnee, Okla. with holes in her heart. Doctors needed to install an artificial aorta.

“But I’m perfectly fine now,” she said.

Her personal health, along with the prevalent health issues of Native Americans, motivated Brady’s schooling.

After moving to the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation when she was 14, Brady went back south to the University of Oklahoma early in her collegiate career.

She returned to North Dakota to continue her schooling, and she just found out she has been accepted into the NDSU Masters of Public Health program.

She will be specializing in the public health of American Indian, coursework that only NDSU offers.

Her education, she said, will someday be passed on to those in need.

“My goals is to go home – well, it doesn’t even have to be home – my goal is to go back to a Native American community and help them as much as I can,” Brady said.

Platform and pageant

The Miss Indian World competition serves as a stage for Native American women to aspire for a better world.

For Brady, one of her many focuses includes fostering culture in today’s youth.

“The primary platform I want to get out there is to encourage children to be who they are as young Native American people – to know their culture, know their language and dream to be who they want to be,” Brady said.

Brady puts her platform into action herself: she said she is learning the Cheyenne language.

At the university, Brady said she thinks NDSU’s Native American presence “could be amplified a bit more,” too, but Brady said she was impressed by the strides already being made.

She will serve as a cultural ambassador until a new winner is crowned next year.

“You just represent your people, you know. You let them know that we’re amazing,” Brady said. “I just want to be a positive light in our communities.”

She beat 21 other diverse women for the crown.

“That’s what’s nice about Miss Indian World; I always like to say we’re not these cookie-cutter girls. We are all shapes and sizes. We all have different interests,” Brady said. “They don’t make us do a bikini contest.”

Of the five overall categories, Brady won the dance and essay segments.

Receptive communities

Brady said the initial reaction has been surprisingly extensive.

“I knew my hometown would be supportive and loving it, but I didn’t know how Fargo would react,” she said, “It’s been amazing here, as well.”

Brady said she realizes not everyone realizes the title’s importance, however.

“I know a lot of people outside of our community do not know about it, but that’s what I’m promoting,” she said.

As for the future, Brady said she will travel to wherever she’s requested, from international stops to around the region.

“It’s a great big honor,” she said.

“To bring the award to North Dakota is a blessing.”

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