Red Hawk First South Dakotan to Win National 4-H Youth in Action Award

Tashina Red Hawk was just 7 years old when her parents bought her first horse. Her mentor, Kassandra Chauncey, a Todd County Junior Division 4-H member at the time, was training her how to ride when her own horse became injured the day before the Todd County 4-H Horse Show.

“The day before the 4-H county horse show I received a phone call from Kassandra asking if she could use my horse, because her horse got hurt. She needed to show my horse in showmanship, and she won a blue ribbon. After they exited the arena, she came over and gave it to me,” Red Hawk says. “I could not believe my mentor had just won a ribbon on my horse. At that point, I knew the future was bright for me.”

Bright, indeed, as Red Hawk has recently been named the recipient of the 2022 4-H Youth in Action Award for Agriculture. Announced during National 4-H Week, the 4-H Youth in Action Awards, sponsored in part by Bayer, began in 2010 to recognize 4-H’ers nationwide who have used the knowledge they gained in 4-H to create a lasting impact in their communities. Distinguished for her “drive to inspire her peers and give back to her Rosebud Sioux Tribe community through charitable veterinary work,” Red Hawk is the first South Dakota 4-H’er to win a Youth in Action award.

“Tashina is a very bright and talented young lady, who is a true role model for all youth. She is goal-oriented and is a great example for what is possible if you value education and a positive, can-do spirit. She exemplifies what the 4-H motto represents — ‘Learn by Doing’ and ‘Make the Best Better,’” says Ronald Frederick, 4-H Youth Program Advisor for Rosebud. “We are so blessed to have her as a role model and productive member of our community.”

“Tashina takes great pride in her Lakota heritage and carries herself with grace and pride of self and her culture,” says Vanessa Hight, 4-H Youth Program Advisor for Jones and Mellette Counties. “She is certainly one amazing young woman, and I am proud she is a member of the Mellette County Mavericks 4-H Club.”

As an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and a representative of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate, Red Hawk says she respects all creation and believes it is her responsibility to care for the animal nation.

“My passion for agriculture comes from my Lakota way of life. I was raised that we are the caretakers of this land. Everything that lives and grows on Unci maka (the earth) is our relatives,” Red Hawk says. “Even though animals do not speak our language, they understand us, and I have witnessed an animal’s ability to help and heal a person during their time of need.”

For the past two years, Red Hawk has volunteered as a veterinarian assistant/technician at the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Animal Clinic. Her duties include everything from preparing animals for surgery, extracting bladders, monitoring vitals and regulating oxygen levels to helping provide emergency first aid, giving medications or immunizations and monitoring and caring for animals after surgery.

While the volunteer work helped stoke Red Hawk’s passion for veterinary science, she says her enthusiasm for 4-H goes back to her younger years.

“My passions for 4-H started when I was a little girl growing up watching my cousin Jo Beth and her friend Kassandra. Those two girls made me want to be a cowgirl,” Red Hawk says. “I grew up attending 4-H rodeos, and as soon as I was 8 years old, I signed up.”

Red Hawk is currently serving her second term as the 2021-2022 South Dakota High School Rodeo Queen. In addition, she is the owner and operator of Tashina’s Coffee and a youth mentor for the Sicangu Lakota Youth Center, both located in Mission.

“The coffee shop is my college savings account; 4-H has taught me life lessons to build on; the veterinary clinic I volunteer at has given me real-life learning experiences; and the rodeo queen role is an ambassador for the agriculture industry, promoting the sport of rodeo and the Western way of life,” Red Hawk says. “I believe I have been truly blessed to be a part of all of these opportunities.”

A senior in high school, Red Hawk plans to use the award’s $5,000 scholarship to continue her education to earn her doctorate in veterinary medicine. She would like to return to the Rosebud community and volunteer at the animal clinic. She would also like to open a mobile vet clinic one day and possibly even travel abroad to gain more veterinary skills.

“I want to be a veterinarian to help my community,” Red Hawk says. “I want to host free animal clinics and give back some of the blessings that were shared with me.”

As an advocate and spokesperson for 4-H agriculture programming for the next year, Red Hawk advises other South Dakota 4-H’ers to not let opportunities pass them by.

“I have a motto that I like to say, ‘Don’t tell me the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the moon,’ and always try to live your best life every day,” Red Hawk says. “There will always be challenges when there is a success, it goes hand-in-hand, sometimes it just takes longer, but don’t give up.”