And so we arrive at the penultimate installment of our inaugural 50 Faces of Indian Country list. This one features a pair of star athletes, an educator, an activist, and a federal judge. Accomplished and talented Native Americans just keep coming, don't they? That's what Natives do, and have always done: It's a big reason why we are still here.
Photo: Jon Super/AP Images
Some experts have picked Rickie Fowler, Navajo, to be the next superstar in golf, comparing him to greats like Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus, He finished in the top five of all four major PGA Tour golf tournaments in 2014, and this season, pulled off what was hailed as “the win heard around the world” when he finished his Sunday round at the Player’s Championship with four birdies and an eagle in his final six holes. It was the best finish in the history of the championship, and he needed every bit of it to get in a playoff, which he won. Fowler, who hopes to inspire Native youth to get more involved in his sport, is an N7 Nike Ambassador and created The Rickie Fowler Foundation to help at-risk youth. Fowler, who turned pro in 2009, has endorsement deals with Red Bull, Titleist and Farmer’s Insurance, and has already pocketed over $18 million dollars in his pro career.
Photo: Diane Schmidt
Sam Deloria, of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, has been the director of the American Indian Graduate Center since 2007. AIGC, formerly American Indian Scholarships, is a national nonprofit dedicated to helping Indian graduate students. He went to Yale University for both his undergraduate degree and law school, and is president of the American Indian Law Center. He founded, and was the first Secretary-General of the World Council of Indigenous People. In 1976, he was one of the founders of the Commission on State-Tribal Relations. In 2001, he spent time in Greenland with a group of instructors teaching people from nine countries about international measures to protect human rights and the rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as on how to testify before the United Nations regarding indigenous issues. Deloria also serves as a member of the National Institutional Review Board for the protection of human subjects of research, which was established by the Indian Health Service.
Photo: Robby Klein
Shoni Schimmel’s popularity and influence in the Native American community cannot be understated. The 23-year-old basketball player, who was born on the Umatilla Indian Reservation, is one of the most recognized faces in Indian country, and in America. After playing her collegiate ball at Louisville, Schimmel was selected 8th overall in the WNBA draft to the Atlanta Dream in 2014, and went on to become the first rookie to be named MVP of the WNBA All-Star Game. She was so popular last year that her No. 23 jersey became the top-selling jersey in the WNBA. Schimmel travels tirelessly throughout Indian country speaking to children who hope to follow in her footsteps. After visiting with youth at the Flathead Reservation in Montana, she said, “The message has always been to follow your dreams. I grew up on the rez. Being Native American is something to be proud of.”
Photo: Kristen M. Caldon
Within the Grand Canyon is a place where the Colorado River and the Little Colorado River meet. It’s known as the Confluence and for the past few years this area has been under attack, says Renae Yellowhorse. One of the leaders of the Save the Confluence coalition, Yellowhorse, 53, has lived her entire life on the Navajo Nation and she holds the Confluence close to her heart, so she’s been challenging tourist and economic projects in this area that is sacred to Native tribes. These projects include a potential $1 billion Grand Canyon Escalade development that would include restaurants, hotels, stores, a trailer park and much more. A tram to reach the bottom of the canyon has also been planned. Yellowhorse says the coalition is not opposed to economic development, but wants people to work with the Navajo Nation to develop sound projects.
Photo: Lee Allen
“Diane Humetewa is an inspiration to Native people, especially Native women across Indian country,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) in 2014 following the Hopi citizen’s confirmation to sit on the federal bench. Humetewa received an unanimous vote from the Senate on May 14, 2015 to become a judge for the U.S. District Court for Arizona. The appointment made her the first Native American woman federal judge in U.S. history and the third Native American to hold such a position. When she was appointed, former U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton told USA Today that Humetewa, “has extraordinarily sound judgment. She’s fair and impartial… In this state, more than any other, where we have 21 reservations and all felony offenses are tried in federal court, we do not have a bench that reflects the community it serves. And now, for the first time in our nation’s history, we’ll have a representative to the bench.”