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How One Western Woman Strives to Make the INFR the Best it Can Be

Welcome back to the 2022 Inspirational Western Women series!

July is the month that seems to be dedicated to freedom, independence, and celebrations of country and culture.

What I like about my featured gal for this month? She embodies all three of the above attributes and more. When my bronc-riding contact for one of my up-and-coming novels had exhausted his knowledge of the Indian National Finals Rodeo, I reached out to her. We then met in person in Las Vegas at the rodeo.

I’m super excited for you to meet this incredible lady.

So let’s meet this month’s Inspirational Western woman, shall we?

It’s a pleasure to introduce Donna Hoyt from Browning, Montana.

She’s sweet, hard-working, and very, very generous.

With that, let’s get busy and hear from Donna.

My family comes from Rodeo. I was born and raised on a ranch with my sisters and brother, who all rodeoed. I never did have the true ambition to be in the arena. I always helped with other things like timing and secretarial duties.

Spending my summers in California with relatives, I enjoyed my time on the beach while my family members rodeoed.

A few times, I’d barrel raced when younger but did not have that desire to do it all the time. I rode horses with my siblings, but not a lot. I make a better cheerleader than a contestant.

Donna with Bo Vocu President and Sam Bird Commissioner

Then came the Indian National Finals Rodeo—INFR.

When working on my master’s degree, having time off from my job at the Blackfeet Community College, I was approached by Sam Bird, the newly appointed Commissioner to the INFR.

He asked if I would help the organization move forward. After agreeing, I set up headquarters in Browning at my empty grandparent’s house. I then hired a work-study from the College, and she worked 3 hours a day.

There was never a one-stop shop for the INFR until I formed an official office. All the regions did their own memberships and rodeos. Now, everything’s run through headquarters with a staff of three full-time and four seasonal employees.

The INFR has always been a prestigious event in Indian Country and supports Miss Indian Rodeo by hosting the lady’s awards and including them in the World Championship award ceremonies.

When I started with the INFR, I worked and did not get paid because there was no money. I worked both jobs for three years, tackling INFR business before and after work and during lunch. I had to finally tell the Commissioner that I needed to quit the INFR and concentrate on my real job.

That is when I started full-time.

Staff Meeting with Donna

There were lots and lots of challenges getting to where we are today. But we love our jobs and the INFR and members even when things get really challenging.

One thing that brought me to help the INFR was I had young nieces and nephews that were involved in rodeo, and I wanted to see them all have that chance to become WORLD CHAMPIONS. I used to tell them, “Once you all make it to the INFR, I’ll go back to being an educator.”

Well, they have all made it and three of them have been crowned WORLD CHAMPIONS, and I’m still here.

My advice? You, too, can be a champion. Remember who you are and where you came from. Always be respectful to the Elders and animals.

All the members deserve to have a chance to win. The INFR members work harder than any other athlete I know and are all champions, and we’ve all grown together in the last few years.

It’s a great feeling to know that we have had another successful INFR season. The INFR is such a team effort to pull off. We have members, stock contractors, staff, sponsors, and the best fans we can ask for. Just knowing that everyone is walking away with a moment of pride gives us all the energy to start preparing for the next year.

Rich in culture, INFR includes powwow dancer performances in the casino and arena. They’ve been involved with the INFR since it has been in Vegas. A remarkable addition.

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INFR Personnel

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About Dona

Donna Hoyt has been the General Manager for the Indian National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas for twenty years. Prior to the INFR, she worked at the Blackfeet Community College as the Director of Student Support Services.

She is an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Tribe and was born and raised on the Blackfeet Reservation in Browning, Montana. She left to get her education and returned once completed, then raised her two daughters on the reservation.


~*~ If you enjoyed learning about this Inspirational Western Woman, please feel free to forward her story to a friend. ~*~


~ *~ If you know of a gal who fits this inspirational western women theme, please contact me at [email protected], so I can get some contact info and feature her too! ~*~

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  1. Tyson Greer says:

    Wonderful to meet people like Donna Hoyt. Thx, Carmen.

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Thanks for taking the time to get to know her, Tyson!

  2. Karen Jones says:

    Loved this story! Donna is truly inspiring. Thank you for featuring her, and for putting a spotlight on the INFR.

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Thanks, Karen. Donna really is remarkable.

  3. Alice Trego says:

    This is a great insight to a wonderful woman who gives her all to help out INFR, and I always enjoy learning about the Blackfeet people and their accomplishments. Thank you for sharing Donna’s story.

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      Thank you for taking the time to read about Donna, Alice. She’s a gem. As are the people of her tribe.

  4. Carmen Peone says:

    I’m so happy you enjoyed learning about Donna and the INFR, Dalyn. She’s amazing! And so gracious. I love that your son is part Blackfeet. Something else we have in common,though my kids are Colville Tribal.

  5. What a fascinating lady! I hadn’t known much about INFR, so appreciation getting this “inside” information.

    1. Carmen Peone says:

      She really is, Mary. Too many people don’t know about the INFR. I was quite happy when we agreed to talk about it. So many wonderful Indigenous athlethes. It’s a top-notch rodeo too. They put so much work into it.

  6. Carmen, I loved reading about Donna and learning a bit about the INFR.
    My son is mixed from Blackfeet so this was of particular interest.
    Thanks for highlighting such an amazing woman who has given so much. I enjoy the opportunity to learn about the western world and the men and women who make it.