SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) – Finding referees for middle school games in communities on Native American reservations can sometimes be impossible in South Dakota.
In some cases, it’s even led to people getting pulled from the stands to call games, the Argus Leader reported Sunday. Emergency volunteers aren’t necessarily certified, which means they are less familiar with protocols when it comes to calling a fair contest, helping players learn a sport properly and handling games.
The South Dakota High School Activities Association in 2008 partnered with the Oglala Lakota College coach and athletic director Mary Tobacco to try to solve the problem. Together, they have developed a program to recruit and train Native American referees.
The program includes middle school basketball – the most popular sport in the area – volleyball and football. It involves 13 schools in two conferences. And this fall, a milestone will be reached when an all-Native American crew of referees participates in varsity football games in the region for the first time.
“We have to educate ourselves on the rules and get physically ready for the demands of fast play,” said Nick Hernandez, lead official in the all-Native American crew. “As a crew, we want to be prepared because the game has a lot of rules. We must be able to facilitate all those rules and provide a fair game.”
Activities Association executive director Wayne Carney said the lack of certified officials on reservations was especially problematic during the state tournament. He said foul numbers were lopsided because what was being called during regular season wasn’t consistent with the rules enforced during the state tourney.
Hernandez, a former high school player at Red Cloud, became certified about six years ago. He has been the coordinator of football officials in subvarsity games for the past three years, making game assignments.
Hernandez also is responsible for recruiting potential referees, and his efforts appear to be paying off: Twenty active men and women are on the basketball officiating list, up from less than five before the program kicked off.
Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com
Oregon native and Atlanta Dream guard Shoni Schimmel has been named a 2014 Native American “40 under 40” award recipient, the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development announced in a press release.
The award is given to people under the age of 40 who have been nominated by “members of their communities for showing initiative and dedication to providing significant, positive contributions to business or in their respective communities.”
Schimmel was named the MVP of the WNBA All-Star Game during the past season, and had the highest selling jersey in the league. She grew up on the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon.
Below is the full release:
MILWAUKEE, WI – Emerging Native American leaders from across the country will be honored for their outstanding leadership during the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s upcoming Reservation Economic Summit (RES) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The “Native American 40 under 40” is a prestigious award that is bestowed upon individuals under the age of 40, nominated by members of their communities, for showing initiative and dedication to providing significant, positive contributions to business or in their respective communities. Shoni Schimmel, a Pendleton, OR resident and member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, is among the 2014 award winners to be honored during a gala at the leading Native American business event in the country, taking place at the Potawatomi Hotel and Casino in Milwaukee.
“The 40 under 40 award showcases the accomplishments of both current and future Native American leaders,” said Gary Davis, President and CEO of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. “The future of Indian country will be shaped by exceptional leaders such as Shoni who have proven their unrelenting dedication to enhancing the lives of those around them. It is truly an honor to bestow this award on such a deserving group of young leaders.”
Shoni Schimmel currently plays point guard in the WNBA for the Atlanta Dream. Schimmel was the first rookie to be named MVP of the WNBA All-Star game, and set the record for most points in an All-Star game with 29. Schimmel, who grew up on the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon, is the highest drafted Native American woman in WNBA history. Schimmel graduated from the University of Louisville, where she was named an All-American and led the Cardinals to the 2013 NCAA Championship game.
Award winners will be officially honored during the 39th Annual Indian Progress in Business Awards (INPRO) Gala, which will take place during RES Wisconsin on Wednesday, October 8th. For more information about Reservation Economic Summit, please visit http://res.ncaied.org.
Reservation-style basketball, as demonstrated by rookie Shoni Schimmel, sure ruled the WNBA All-Star Game on Saturday at US Airways Center.
And if you want an explanation of Rez Ball, well, WNBA President Laurel Richie provided a pretty good one when she told Schimmel’s dad, “She plays with such joy, freedom and liberation!”
Schimmel, who probably wouldn’t have been in the game at all without the support of Native American basketball fans, added a whole lot more faces to her following with dazzling ballhandling, long-range shooting and an All-Star-record 29 points that led the East to a 125-124 overtime victory.
Schimmel is the first rookie named MVP in the All-Star Game, but she’s been a most valuable person for Native Americans for quite a while.
Raised in eastern Oregon on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Schimmel’s quest to be the first athlete from her reservation to earn a NCAA Division I scholarship was the subject of a 2011 documentary “Off the Rez.”
Her following grew when she and her younger sister Jude led Louisville to the 2013 NCAA championship game before the surprising Cardinals finally fell to Connecticut.
Atlanta picked Schimmel eighth overall in the WNBA draft and she has started only two games for the Dream, averaging 7.2 points. Yet she was voted into the East starting lineup with the third-highest number of ballots in All-Star voting.
Her jersey is the biggest seller in the league.
And only the Mercury’s three players in the game, Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner and Candice Dupree, got bigger reactions from the crowd than Schimmel.
“I don’t know if it was meant to be, but it happened,” Rick Schimmel said. “It was exciting that it was in front of so many Native Americans here. It meant a lot.”
Rick said Shoni has taken her role as an example to Native American followers seriously since she began learning those dazzling moves as a kid during her years in high school when she was coached by her mom Ceci and on to Louisville and the WNBA.
“To have the fans look up to me and be a role model not only for my siblings but the Native American fans and Native American people, it’s something that I take on my shoulders because I enjoy it,” she said. “I love being Native American, and for all these fans to come out and be here, and to vote me into this game, means a lot.
“I’m thankful they got to be here or to watch it on TV. It was awesome just to be able to go out there and play my game and have fun, and to feel free to go out there and play Rez Ball. It was a lot of fun.”
Schimmel was relatively quiet in the first half, scoring five points and handing out four assists.
But not long into the third quarter, she cut loose, hitting three shots from beyond the 3-point line in short order.
“I’m not going to lie, I saw it coming in the third quarter,” said Jude, one of 17 family members who made the trip to Phoenix. “She just kept asking for the ball and got more and more comfortable as the game went on. Playing with her for so long, and being her sister, I knew what was coming.
“I was just happy to see her so comfortable on such a big stage, playing so well.”
Rick said Shoni feels a responsibility to set an example, just as former Window Rock and Arizona State star Ryneldi Becenti did as the first Native American to play in the WNBA.
“It offers hope to the younger generation of Native Americans,” he said. “It has been such a struggle, but it gives them hope and the idea that they can go out and do anything they set their mind to.
“Shoni is living her own dream, but at the same time, she represents a lot more to a lot of people, and that’s just the blessing of it all. It’s enhancing other people’s lives and opportunities along the way.
“It’s in her core, really. It’s something she has always represented. It’s not like she comes out and thinks about it that much, but you walk out and see a lot of Native faces, I think in anybody’s mind they’re thinking, ‘Wow, they’re here to see me.’
“I would freeze up, and it’s easy to do that. But she doesn’t. She embraces it. It’s in her heart and something she was born with.”
She was born with it on a reservation, where basketball is a horizontal game more than a vertical one. Where creativity is king and playing with fear will only get you beat.
“Rez Ball is kind of an open-court game, where you feed off of each other,” Jude explained. “It’s free-flowing and fun. It’s more about a feel for the game than thinking about it. It’s not very structured, but it’s a thriller!
“It fits perfectly for an All-Star Game. Ever since we were younger, I’ve seen those kinds of moves, probably a lot more of them, too. But to see her do it on the big stage, I had goosebumps. I normally don’t cheer, but I was cheering.”
Why not? On the WNBA’s biggest stage, Rez Ball ruled.
RECIFE, BRAZIL— Chris Wondolowski, the first tribally enrolled American Indian to participate at the World Cup, will be on the field as the U.S. Men’s National Team will plays Germany at noon, Thursday, June 26 in the World Cup in Recife, Brazil.
Wondolowski is a tribal citizen of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma. He is a forward on the U.S. team.
Wondolowski plays Major League Soccer for the San Jose Earthquake. He is known by the nickname “Wondo.”
In 2013, Wondolwski tallied 11 goals and three assists in 29 MLS games, becoming the 11th player in league history to record double-digit goals in four consecutive seasons.
Wondolowski was born into the Kiowa Tribe through his mother, Janis Hoyt. He was given a tribal name, Bau Daigh, pronounced Bowe Dye, which means “warrior coming over the hill.”
His brother, Stephen Wondolowski, is also a professional soccer player.
The greatest tip I ever received on a golf course happens to have come from the same guy who gave me the greatest quote I ever got while covering an event:
Notah Begay III.
As a senior at Albuquerque Academy during the 36-hole state golf championships in 1990, Begay had taken an ungodly lead after the opening round.
I knew there was no way he could lose, but I also knew – despite his remarkable skills – he was still just a high school kid.
So I tossed him a softball. Something like, “You’re up by double-digits, but you still need to just focus on your game and not worry about anyone else, right? I guess anything can still happen, right?”
Begay said something along the lines of “the only thing that can happen is I’m going to win. The only thing in doubt is if I will break the scoring record.”
Then came a quip for the ages:
“Today I waxed ‘em – tomorrow I’m going to buff ‘em.”
I didn’t want to bury the kid, so I called his dad, Notah Jr., and asked him what he thought.
“Print it,” Begay Jr., said with a belly laugh. “Print it. I love it.”
Sure enough, Begay III got the evil eye from just about every other kid, while they grumbled and stumbled through round 2. Begay III, meanwhile, went on to his second straight state title in record-setting fashion.
As for the tip, it came a few years later while playing a round of golf together. I hit an unlucky shot that bounced off a pole or sign or something, which started my usual whining about my bad luck.
Begay turned to me, held up his index finger and said “The game gives you what you deserve.”
I thought, “How true.”
If you’re playing well, the score almost always reflects it – and vice versa. More importantly, there are as many fortunate bounces in golf as unfortunate ones. They truly do even out in the long run.
That was more than 20 years ago, and I haven’t complained about a bad bounce since.
Begay, an Albuquerque native who now makes his home in Dallas, has been in town the past few weeks preparing for his inaugural Rio Grande Charity Slam. The event – with a junior golf clinic and banquet on Thursday and a celebrity golf tournament on Friday at Santa Ana Golf Club – is raising money for the Notah Begay III Foundation and the Jewish Community Center. His foundation raises thousands of dollars to launch, sustain and expand programming to combat health issues threatening Native children – more than 20,000 in 13 states of whom have benefited from the programs, and 75 percent of those in New Mexico.
Begay, a four-time PGA Tour winner and a full-blooded Native American, has been in the news a great deal the past year. He became an analyst for Golf Channel, has stayed very active with his foundation and made national headlines with a comment about Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder.
And – despite being just 41 – he suffered a heart attack in April.
On Saturday, after the third round of the 72-hole San Juan Open in Farmington, Begay and I shared a few laughs and a lot of thoughts.
Mark Smith: First off, how is your health?
Notah Begay III: Good. I mean, you wouldn’t be able to tell two months ago that I had a heart attack. I’m a little weak, I lost a little bit of distance in terms of my golf. But I got a lot back in terms of my health. I’ve gotten better, I’ve got more energy. I feel pretty lucky to have gone through it so well.
MS: Not to be too dramatic, but what was going through your mind when you were having the heart attack?
NB: Just shear shock. ‘How did I end up here?’ It was a complete surprise, in terms of, ‘I’m 41-years-old, I exercise on a regular basis, I eat well – and I had a heart attack.’ It wasn’t really until about three or four days after that I really started to ascertain all of the possibilities and outcomes that could have been. There’s been a lot of people in my situation that could have died, because they weren’t close to a hospital, or had more arteries blocked. I’m really lucky that it worked out.
MS: Your father also has serious health issues. (He recently became visually impaired, and last month was hospitalized for a couple weeks after falling down some stairs at home.) How much tougher has that made things?
NB: One of the toughest things with dealing with the heart attack, was my dad took that spill and broke his ribs. It all makes me realize even more so, what we teach (in the NB3F) about eating better, staying healthy, getting exercise. It’s been a tough time for sure. It opens your eyes even more so.
MS: This week you have your event at Santa Ana. Are you ready?
NB: I can’t wait. It looks like (former Lobo and PGA Tour pro) Tim Herron’s going to be here. We have a nice group of celebrities, and people who support what we’re doing. That’s all you can ask for.
MS: In April, you made news by telling USA Today you are against the Washington Redskins keeping their nickname, and you said owner Dan Snyder’s Original Americans Foundation was “more of a gimmick.” Did you have much controversy over your comments?
NB: No, not at all. I think most people would agree that the Washington football team needs to change its mascot name. Some would argue they should keep it. The simplest argument, which is not necessarily the right one, is it’s not an issue of being politically correct. Being politically correct is vastly different than using a dictionary-defined racial slur as a representation of a national franchise. I’m not trying to nit-pick on the political correctness, I just think we’re at a day and age that we should be demonstrating to the younger generations that we’re willing to embrace all the cultures.
MS: You and your brother Clint were raised in a house (on the 14th fairway) at Ladera (Golf Course). Do you ever go look from the backyard and think about old times there?
“My dad (and his wife, Claire) lives on the sixth green now, and I go to that back patio and watch people play the sixth green. And I think of how many times I’ve played the sixth hole. All the skins games, all the calcuttas, all the high school tournaments, the city tournaments – ever since I was 9 years old. Going from a junior playing in the Sun Country, to Stanford, to the PGA Tour to an analyst on the Golf Channel now? You couldn’t have written this script. Ever.
MS: You told me 20 years ago that you’d never forget your roots. This week shows you haven’t.
NB: A lot of that comes from my respect for the culture and tradition I came from, my dad and mom and the Native American heritage. I’ve since transposed that to the respect and admiration for 71 years at the City (Amateur) tournament, or 50 years (at San Juan Open), and how much goes into these events; how much the community and sponsors put into these events. These things don’t just happen by themselves. It’s a reflection of our love for the game. And so much has been given to me through golf, it would be very unappreciative for me not to give back through the game.
MS: Speaking of the San Juan, they listed the (third-round) cut as being the top 26 and ties. Initially, you missed by a shot. But then they decided to let in 33 players, including you, causing some players to call it “The Notah Rule.” But the sponsors enjoyed it.
NB: That’s too funny (laugh). On the PGA Tour, they always talk about “The Tiger Rules.” Now there’s “The Notah Rules.” I guess I’ve arrived.
MS: One last thing. We’ve talked about it before – the greatest quote in the history of sport. You remember it?
NB: (Belly laugh). I was a cocky senior at Albuquerque Academy (laugh). ‘Today I’m going to wax ‘em and tomorrow I’m going to ‘buff em (laugh).’ And I backed it up.
PINE RIDGE— The notoriety of the unique passion and style with which Native people play the sport of basketball has grown with the successes of college athletes like Jude and Shoni Schimmel. However the oversimplification of the term “Rez Ball” that has been tied to the two star guards for the University of Louisville has left out many aspects of Indian Country’s connections to the game, including those that are fostered at independently run basketball tournaments all across the country.
Stereotypical portrayals of Native America are often infused with images of black and white photographs from the pre-reservation era showing tribal members in traditional regalia. In representations of contemporary Native America the mainstream news cycle is often flooded with photographs of dire poverty and gang life. These elements do exist in Indian Country but what is often left out is the everyday life lived by many in predominately Native communities that is infused with the sport of basketball.
Although basketball was first brought to most reservation communities by Christian missionaries as an incentive or outlet to the harsh assimilationist policies within boarding schools the sport has been embraced throughout Native America.
For some like Beau Cuevas, a Mni Coujou Lakota, who has played the game his whole life basketball, holds a special place within him.
“For me it’s a way to relax because on that court nothing else matters it’s you and 9 others guys going to battle. It’s the only other place besides Inipi (sweat lodge) and Sundance that I feel at home, it’s a brotherhood,” said Cuevas.
One phenomenon that has been present in Indian Country since as early as the 1900’s has been the formation of travelling teams made up of Native American ball players. Possibly the earliest recorded Native American independent basketball team in history hailed from Fort Shaw, Montana. The team that was comprised of women competed in the 1904 World’s fair in St. Louis and helped to create interest in the game of basketball.
Throughout the year athletes from around Indian Country participate in both local and national basketball tournaments held in all parts of the U.S. The participants in these reservation or urban Indian community based tournaments vary from former high school stars, to successful Divisions 1 athletes, street ball legends and even potential NBA prospects like Luke Martinez who played at the University of Wyoming.
Occasionally in tournaments where tribal enrollment verification is not required high caliber non-Native participants are also brought in by Native teams to compete as demonstrated by sightings of former University of Wisconsin star Jordan Taylor at a tournament held at Indian Center in Minneapolis, MN and former South Dakota State University forward Tony Fiegan who played in one in Rapid City, SD last spring.
Cooper Kirkie a member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe who is one of the many talents who travel across the country to play in these tournaments says that the talent level playing is comparable to that of the NBA’s Developmental league or some of the pro leagues in Europe.
“With more and more Natives playing division 1 ball it is really getting to be good talent in these tournaments. The ones who are playing college ball and don’t go on to play after are the first round draft picks for these teams. Usually someone sees them play and someone else will know their auntie or cousin and call them up and bring them out,” said Kirkie.
Kirkie has travelled to over a dozen states including Florida, Washington, and Wisconsin to play in Native tournaments and feels that his desire to travel, that he inherited from his Grandmother, would have went unfulfilled without basketball.
“I am really blessed to be able to travel and see different parts of the country that without basketball I may not have ever been able to experience,” he said. “There are just so many good players out there is feels good to be able to go to other nations and compete against what they have. It is like counting coup. It isn’t about being violent or disrespectful it’s just going out and doing our best.”
With the arrival of gaming and energy dollars in to Indian Country the dynamics of these teams have begun to change as well as the sponsorships. The team Kirkie is on receives its funding from tribal members who are enrolled in a Florida based casino tribe who pays for the team to fly to and from tournaments throughout the year with per cap dollars generated by the tribal members’ casinos. The sponsorship money is a welcome relief from days past when Cooper was forced to gather money on his own.
“I remember when I first got started and I had to either save up money all the time or approach the tribe and ask them for $200. Sometimes they would give us that and we would get together some food stamps and we would travel on that,” he said. “The thing about our sponsors is that they are really good hearted people who do this because they like to see us play and they like to spend family time together with us. It isn’t like if we play a bad game that this is going to stop. It isn’t about that and it feels good playing with no pressure and being with family.”
Some tournaments are of the small scale where local teams converge to compete against fellow tribal members for jackets, sweaters, and occasionally t-shirts. However independent basketball has begun to take on a new feel with the onset of the same casino and energy dollars that sponsor Kirkie’s team being funneled in to the circuit with some tournaments awarding as much as $10,000 and custom designed Pendleton jackets to the winners. Recently the team Iron Boy which featured former Cheyenne Eagle Butte standout and Pine Ridge Native Daelan High Wolf took home the $10,000 prize at the March Madness tournament in Dells, Wisconsin.
The reasoning behind the creation of these tournaments varies from event to event. Some are local fundraisers while others are for competition but one authentically Native aspect of the Native Independent basketball circuit is using the game and the events as a way of memorializing lost loved ones. Travis Albers hosts a tournament each year in Bismarck, North Dakota honor of his brother Tanner who past away from cancer several years ago. Tanner was a star player in South Dakota alongside Travis, both would play together at United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck. Just this last year Tanner was inducted in to the school’s hall of fame. For Travis who himself is veteran of the independent hoops trails the memorial tournament he runs is bigger than just basketball.
“Me and my brother had been playing basketball together since we could walk. It was something we did together, we did everything together,” said Albers. “When I have this tournament it isn’t just basketball. I want people to come and talk about memories they had of him and to talk about how he treated them good and remember things other than basketball.”
Travis and Tanner would play together with each other at all levels of the game including college and then with one of the more storied independent teams, Iron Five, for more than ten years together. For Travis the independent game has changed but it is still something that serves a purpose within Native communities.
“We have have a lot of athletes who could go on to play at higher levels but for whatever reason they sometimes get pulled back. But for those on the reservation they are still stars. Some of them are like NBA players to us but the tournaments are good ways to gather to remember the ones the passed away,” he said.