- Lani Hansen
Foreman fulfills Miss Keetoowah dream
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
EDITOR, GIDUWA CHEROKEE NEWS
TAHLEQUAH – Kitana Foreman can still remember attending the Miss and Jr. Miss Keetoowah Pageants when she was only 7 years old.
“When I was younger, my mom was always taking me to the pageants because my aunt used to be one of the judges,” she said. “One of the former Miss Keetoowahs came to speak to me once during a pageant and she told me that I could absolutely be Miss Keetoowah myself one day. Just seeing how she held herself and how passionate she was and how she cared for the kids, it made me want it too.”
Foreman, now 21, finally came full circle on Oct. 3, 2021, when she was crowned the new Miss Keetoowah.
“When they called my name, I was just so happy,” said Foreman. “It was like a dream and it’s still hard for me to grasp it at times, that I'm actually in the same role of the young woman that I looked up to. It's a big honor for me and it’s such a big honor to represent my family and my tribe.”
Foreman said she has grown up traditionally thanks to her parents, Kimberly Swimmer-Holmes and Johnny Foreman, who made sure she knew about stomp dances and traditional foods. However, she said she was most nervous about the language aspect of the Miss Keetoowah competition.
“My mom is Choctaw and she speaks, but I had to go to my family members on my dad's side because they speak fluent Cherokee. I told them that I wanted to learn the language and become more comfortable with trying to speak it, because I need to learn the language. They were all helping me and were happy and proud I wanted to do this.”
Foreman has an interest in helping Native youth in her role as Miss Keetoowah. As part of her platform, she will focus on combating suicide in Native youth.
“I went to a conference where I learned that Native American children have one of the highest rates of suicide. For Native youth ages 10-24, suicide is the second leading cause of death, which is 2.5 times higher than the national average,” she said. “After hearing that, I’ve really become passionate about wanting to help and let them know they have a purpose.”
As part of her efforts, Foreman is planning to organize an art show later this year.
“I want to put together an art show that asks youth to showcase something that they stand for, something that allows them to express themselves and their feelings,” she said. “Art can be healing and help with mental health, just getting things out. By doing an art show, it lets them know not to be ashamed and that there is help and to ask for it. I also want them to know there is a whole tribe behind them and if they just get involved, they will see how much they matter.”
Foreman also plans to use her platform to help raise awareness for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women movement.
“As Miss Keetoowah, I also want to bring awareness to the higher level of violence that our Native women experience,” she said. “I want to inspire all Native youth and I want our young Keetoowah women to feel strong, confident and proud of being Keetoowah. I want them to know there is sunshine in the darkness and they can be the sunshine our people need.”
Foreman is currently attending Tulsa Community College to get her associate’s degree in business. Upon completion, she has plans to transfer to the University of Oklahoma where she tentatively plans to pursue a law degree.
“I haven't decided exactly what path I want to take, but I’m very interested in tribal law,” she said. “I know the chief has really talked to me about it and I’ve always been interested in serving however I can. Since McGirt, tribes are needing more help with the courts and help with sovereignty issues. I have a big interest in that and a lot of the tribe has been supportive, including Dr. Hannah in the Education Department.”
Regardless of wherever she travels, Foreman plans to keep the tribe close.
“My biggest goal as Miss Keetoowah will always be showing the Keetoowah culture to others and bringing more awareness to who we are. I’ll be attending a lot of powwows this summer and if someone doesn’t know who the Keetoowahs are, I’ll be there to represent us.”