Sports -- inspiring tribal youth to succeed

Sports – inspiring tribal youth to
March 20, 2014 12:00 am • Richard Gomez / Commentary
In our Chumash culture, as with many other Native American tribes, games and athleticism have
been important aspects of tribal stories and traditions.
In past columns, we’ve discussed how our tribal stories go back to the times when our ancestors say
games were played by people or creatures who inhabited this land or the skies above.
One game is “hoop and pole.” It is an athletic game that involved the making of thunder. Two
brothers play it in the “world above,” and when they roll the hoop, it is said that they make thunder.
Tribes across the United States also have created a number of different team games. Lacrosse, for
instance, came from a game originally played by Iroquois people on the East Coast.
Working together as a team, good sportsmanship and physical achievements are part of many tribal
cultures. Unfortunately, sometimes, the accomplishments of Native Americans in sports today can
go unnoticed.
It’s important for our young people to have role models they can identify with in sports or in others
areas. That’s one reason the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi had a special meaning for many tribal
people across the United States.
One of the standout participants in the games was Native American hockey player T.J. Oshie. The
NHL player starred in the overtime shootout when the U.S. hockey team beat Russia in the early
rounds of the competition. The Web site noted: “He’s the second Ojibwe hockey player
from (his hometown) to reach the Olympics — his cousin Henry Boucha won a silver medal at the
1972 games.”
One sport popular on reservations across the country is basketball, often called rezball. Last year’s
March Madness included news stories that focused on how the success of basketball players Jude
and Shoni Schimmel inspired and motivated young people on America’s reservations. These sisters
from the Confederate Tribes of the Umatilla in eastern Oregon helped lead the University of
Louisville women’s basketball team to play in the championship game.
Their success is continuing. One Tennessee newspaper recently reported: “The University of
Louisville women’s basketball team was on the road two weeks ago in its game against the
University of Oklahoma, but Shoni and Jude Schimmel made certain that the Cardinals had plenty of
support. About 1,500 fans — almost all of them American Indians like the Schimmels — sat behind
the bench and cheered.”
On our reservation here in the Valley, our tribal government works to help our young people succeed
in becoming well-rounded individuals, including being physically active and to appreciate sports and
sportsmanship. Our cultural, educational and other programs also aim to get our children moving,
explore the outdoors and connect with the environment.
To watch young people from our Chumash families be active in community sport programs in the
Valley and carry on the traditions of our ancestors as team players is wonderful sight for us.