When Taran Swimmer was recently crowned Miss Cherokee, she was filled with disbelief. At the same time, the Western Carolina University sophomore from Cherokee was thrilled to receive such a high honor.
“It feels pretty good,” Swimmer said. “It’s a very important honor in our tradition. You have a lot of responsibilities.”
Since being crowned, Swimmer has been very busy. She’s had numerous speaking engagements, including Ned Long Day, an event that honors Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian tribal elders, and opening ceremonies for WCU’s Native American Heritage Expo, held Nov. 9-10 at A.K. Hinds University Center. Swimmer also was present at Mars Hill University’s football game Oct. 24 for Cherokee Recognition Day.
During WCU’s Nov. 7 game against Furman, in which the university celebrated the history, tradition and culture of the EBCI, Swimmer handled the pregame coin toss. It’s been a whirlwind of events for her.
Growing up in Cherokee, Swimmer imagined herself attending a university in another part of the state. But as she got older, those dreams began fading away.
“As I started learning about the classes and seeing the (WCU) campus and size of the classed, I started changing my mind,” Swimmer said. “I love the area. I’ve always loved the mountains and the leaves. It just feels so communal here. Everybody helps you. It’s such a cozy atmosphere.”
Also in WCU’s favor was it was the only school where she could minor in Cherokee studies, said Swimmer, whose major is computer graphics.
“That’s very important,” she said. “Growing up, they tell you to always know your traditions and your culture and to never let that leave you.”
In her spare time, Swimmer likes to draw landscapes and portraits, as well as paint and do pottery. She also enjoys playing soccer and volleyball, and is a member of Digali’i, WCU’s Native American student organization.