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High School South Dakota Rodeo Queen Has Passion For Animal Care


This year’s High School South Dakota Rodeo Queen Tashina Red Hawk laughs as her horse Frenchie, grabs her hair. Red Hawk stands with four of her horses near a stock tank filling with water.  

Red Hawk won the rodeo queen honor for the second time in three years. This summer, she went on to compete for the national title, receiving first place in personality and sixth overall. Red Hawk has been riding and training horses since she was just four years old. Her horses are like family to her. 

One of Red Hawk’s earliest experiences on a horse was barrel racing. As a young girl, one day she hopped on the back of a white Arabian. 

“She was fast,” Red Hawk said. “She wanted to run like crazy and I was this little girl who had my really protective dad had me on really slow horses, so I had this little fast horse I had to get on and that built my bravery to be able to get on other horses and barrel race.” 

As a Sicangu Lakota member, Red Hawk incorporates her culture into almost everything she does, and horses play a significant in her Lakota culture. 

She and her father dress their horses in full Lakota regalia for events and parades to incorporate tradition.  

Part of being rodeo queen entails traveling around South Dakota giving speeches as the state rodeo’s ambassador. She incorporates the Lakota language when she introduces herself for rodeo queen events.  

“All my relatives, I greet you with a warm-hearted handshake,” she says in Lakota. “My name’s Tashina Red Hawk. Then I’ll say good evening. I’m your South Dakota Rodeo Queen.”  

Red Hawk also expresses Lakota culture in her rodeo queen outfit. Tashina and her parents bead intricate earrings and pendants to accompany the more western-styled chaps.  

This 17-year-old is on the road the majority of the summer, traveling in the state and nationally for rodeo competitions and rodeo queen engagements.  

Her parents are her support system: her mother manages events, and her father takes care of the horses when she’s away.  

Tashina’s father, Shane Red Hawk, said his daughter goes out of her way to show kindness to everyone she can. He enjoys walking with his daughter at rodeo events because she engages with everyone she can along the way.   

“There’ll be little girls, their eyes are about like that and they’re watching her walk by,” Shane Red Hawk said. “Even though her mom or the other rodeo queen sisters are all walking right next to her, she’ll stop and reach back and she’ll high-five them and you see them jump off and get excited. To acknowledge all of the little ones like that, it gives them hope, maybe they’re going to try for something in the future.” 

Tashina Red Hawk is a people person with a passion to care for animals. She recalls a time when a young filly was stuck in a ball of barbed wire that a farmer left along a fence. 

“I had to run down, and I checked back there because I heard her calling and she was stuck,” she said. “At the time, she was still really young and wasn’t worked with yet so she would kick out of fear. I didn’t have service down here, so I had to run back up, grab my parents, run down there, and then my dad cut her off the ball of barbed wire. And we put her up in the round pen and I was the person to cut each strand of barbed wire off of her that was wrapped around her.” 

The teenager cleaned the wounds of her filly every day after school. She said on the ranch she often has to care for injuries and pay attention to her animals’ nutrition. 

Shane Red Hawk said his daughter has compassion for many animals. He recalled A time when Tashina saw a dog on the street.   

“And she said, ‘Oh there you are handsome boy. You’re so pretty and cute!’ She was looking beside me, and I look down and there’s this pitiful dog,” Shane said. “Nobody took care of him; he was kind of mangy and you could see his ribs. It was so beautiful, I turned and looked and said what the heck is she talking about? And she sat down and was talking with it and stuff and you know that’s, like I said of all the strengths I think compassion is pretty powerful.” 

Shane Red Hawk is excited to see Tashina grow into her many roles. He has taught her Lakota traditions, like singing and dancing.  

“She’s not going to be a victim, rather she’s an advocate,” Shane Red Hawk said. “She’s powerful, she has a voice just like my grandmother’s and when she sings in her Lakota way, man my heart bursts. Its everything any dad could wish or dream for.” 

This will be Tashina Red Hawk’s senior year at Todd County High School. She’s taking dual credit courses online through South Dakota State University and Black Hills College and seeking science courses through Sinte Gleshka University in Mission. 

Experiences as a ranch hand have piqued her interest in a veterinary science degree.  Last year, she shadowed veterinarians and worked her way into assisting on some surgeries at Wamakaskan Wawokiye Oti–Helping Animal Center in Mission.  

Initially, the veterinarians had Red Hawk help with animal recovery after surgery which she enjoyed. However, she also got some hands-on experience.  

“I managed to kind of shimmy my way up to the surgery room and I notice they had some kits with their medical tools, and it was kind of messy so I kind of snuck in and started cleaning up,” she said. “Then all of the sudden, there was a dog that was losing oxygen on the table and so the doctor says turn up the gas machine, turn up the oxygen. And all of them were tied up in their animals and they were looking around.” 

The veterinarians asked her to help with the gas and oxygen machines. After that experience, Red Hawk now works regularly alongside the vets to assist with the gas machines. The knowledge will help her pursue an important goal. 

One of the veterinarians at the clinic, the late Dr. Eric Jayne, was a mentor to Red Hawk. To honor him, she named a puppy he delivered ‘phezuta,’ the Lakota word for medicine. Jayne’s focus on nonprofit vet clinics influences Red Hawk’s vision for her future.  

Veterinary science is a way she can continue caring for animals.   

“Being Lakota, horses are really important to us and so is our animal nation,” Red Hawk said. “When we pray in all of our four directions, we address all four of our animal nations and so I just have a really huge great connection with animals. I believe that as much heart and helping that they put into us, I want to give that back to them.”  

Red Hawk is getting experience as an entrepreneur while still in high school.  When classes moved online during the pandemic, she had some free time. Her father built a mobile coffee kiosk on top of an old trailer, painted a bright teal. From there, Red Hawk serves the town of Mission premium coffee from a drive-thru window.  

“The coffee shop is really helping me with learning how to still have a fun aspect of life but be able to be business and focused on something,” Red Hawk said. “So, I think it’s really going to prepare me for college because I’m used to having to stock inventory, make sure staff employees are there, work it, but also do my homework at the same time.” 

Red Hawk works shifts at the shop and listens to her online lectures while making drinks.  

Her tenacious personality fuels her many passions. 

“I want to be able to come back and give back to my tribe the amount of time they’ve given to me at this clinic, but I would also like to travel and go to different vet places to experience to know where I really want to be after school’s all over,” Red Hawk said. 

Red Hawk plans to combine both her love for small and large animals in her studies as a veterinarian.