CLAREMORE, Okla.-Cherokee citizen Tiffany Teehee is racing into her future, thanks to assistance several years ago from the Cherokee Nation. Since that initial assistance given to her by the tribe's Community Youth Fund, she has excelled to become one of the top barrel racers in the country.
"The Cherokee Nation is very proud of Tiffany's accomplishments," said Chad Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.
"Ambition and a desire to excel are what the Cherokee Nation is built upon. Tiffany is the epitome of the Cherokee spirit. She is a great role model for other Cherokee youth and is evidence of what hard work and perseverance can accomplish."
Teehee began riding horses at a very early age and has since become a top competitor, winning on national and international levels.
"My grandpa had horses when I was a little girl and I loved them," said Teehee. "When I was about six, I had the choice of getting a pool or a horse. I chose the horse."
Now 18, Teehee realizes how important that choice was. She finished third in the world standings at the 2006 International Finals Rodeo last December and has won numerous titles and awards during her years of competitive riding.
"It's hard work," said Teehee. "I have learned a lot about responsibility and time management. I can't waste time because even five minutes of extra sleep could make me late for school."
The Cherokee Nation helped to support Teehee's goals by offering financial contributions in the early years of her rodeo career. At age eight, Tiffany was awarded a grant through the tribe's Community Youth Fund, which offers financial support to Cherokee youth in their extracurricular endeavors.
Upon being crowned Miss Rodeo Oklahoma in 2000, Teehee received a $1,000 contribution from the tribe to help support her travels throughout the state promoting the sport of rodeo. She has since become financially able to support her goals solely through her success as a barrel racer.
"My winnings go back into an account that helps me to continue to compete," said Teehee. "It's expensive to enter the competitions and travel. I go all over the country barrel racing. So I guess in a way, I've learned another important lesson. I've learned that when you make money you can't always spend it."
"The Cherokee Nation promotes the importance of self-sufficiency," said Smith. "All of our programs, including the Community Youth Fund that Tiffany participated in, are designed not only to help our citizens, but to instill the idea of hard-work and self reliance. It is great to see our programs at work and to see that they are helping to make our Cherokee citizens more successful in all of their endeavors."
Teehee encourages other youth to follow their dreams and to set goals for themselves.
"I would have to say that anyone can accomplish their goals if they really set their mind to it," said Teehee. "If you're willing to work hard and sacrifice the little things, anything is possible. Mainly, you just have to set your mind to it and keep pushing forward, even when things get in your way. My goals are to keep competing and get a scholarship to go to college."
Teehee also said she is grateful for the help the Cherokee Nation provided to her in getting her started in her rodeo career, and it has given her the opportunity to meet other Native Americans who are also competing in the events.
"I enjoy representing my tribe and would encourage other Cherokee youth to consider taking part in rodeos, she said. "I meet a lot of young people from other tribes, but not very many are Cherokee. So, I try to always present a positive image when I am traveling and competing in rodeos. I am very proud of my heritage and I want to promote my Cherokee culture and spirit."
The purpose of the Cherokee Nation Community Youth Fund is to expose Cherokee youth to community leadership and develop future leadership skills. In addition, the program shows how Cherokees have survived and excelled.