Jim Warne’s Oglala Lakota people have always been nomadic. In many ways, the former NFL offensive lineman and member of the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame is following in the footsteps of his proud heritage.
Warne spends his summers traveling the country bringing his Warrior Society Developmental youth football camp to reservations from the Colville in Central Washington state, the Lakota in South Dakota, to the Seminole in Flordia, to the Seneca in upstate New York and all points in between. The former Cincinnati Bengal and member of the Rose Bowl winning Arizona State team has taken his Warrior Society camp to 150 reservations over the past 11 years.
Back in August, the Warrior Society Developmental camp made its Canadian debut at Ohsweken, Ontario with the inaugural Six Nations Thunder Football Camp. Traditional Wellness Coordinator Cindy Martin has been active with Warne’s camps on the Cattaraugus reservation in upstate New York and helped initiate this first effort in Canada. “Cindy Martin attended my Seneca camp last year, saw what we were doing and said, ‘We need this for our kids at Six Nations,’” Warne told ICTMN. “It was all done through the moccasin telegraph. I was already out there, so we made it happen.”
Martin believes sports has its place in Native communities and helps kids get over shyness and learn how to work together. “This is my third year working with Jim at Cattaraugus (reservation),” Martin told the Two Row Times. “I usually provide the nutrition component and physical activity. It’s not every day you get to meet and hang out with an ex-NFL player. Now that we’ve had a trial run, with more fundraising and support, the bigger and better it’s going to be.”
Warne likes to utilize his NFL connections, bringing in guest coaches like former Buffalo Bills safety Mark Kelso (who played in four consecutive Super Bowls), Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Marv Kellum (played in Super Bowls IX and X) and former Minnesota Viking and NFL Hall of Famer Randall McDaniel.
Courtesy Jim Warne
American Indian Hall of Famer Jim Warne runs his Six Nations athletes through series of NFL combine drills.
Being on the Canadian side with this camp, it gave him a chance to make connections with the Hamilton Tigercats of the Canadian Football League. “The Hamilton Tigercats were happy to participate and they gave each camper a football,” said Warne, who was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals year and spent time with three other teams during his NFL career. “John Williams, who’s an administrator with the Tigercats, wanted to be involved with this. He liked the warrior society elements and medicine wheel philosophy. He said he tries to incorporate them into his work, not only as an educator, but also with the football team. Giving each of the kids a football was sure a nice thing for the local professional team to do.”
Warne blends his life experiences with the medicine wheel with his athletic and educational perspectives to deliver a message to Native youth can connect with. “I always tell the kids if I was counting on the NFL and Hollywood, I’d be a bouncer today if I didn’t have my education,” he explained. “I try to be an example of an Indian man who utilized athletics to get an education, so that I can be successful in life. I think it applies to more than just our people. In fact, John (Williams) was hoping I could do a presentation to the (Tigercats) regarding the warrior philosophy. It’s so much more that the just the fighting elements. It’s about balance, being spiritual, a family man, being a representative of your people … which is what a warrior’s all about.”
Courtsey Hamilton Tigercats
Jim Warne Oglala) and John Williams in front of the facility.
Warne’s resume is impressive. As a player, he helped Arizona State win the Rose Bowl in 1987. His NFL career included stints with Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, Detroit and a mini camp with San Francisco. His football journey took him overseas were he played in the World League of American Football (NFL Europe) with the New York/New Jersey Knights (1991). His playing days ended following 1992 Arena Football League season where he played for the Albany Firebirds. “I can say this, Arena Football paid for my master’s degree,” he said. Warne grew up in Tempe, Ariz., where earned a B.S. from Arizona State University and a M.S. from San Diego State University. He has also earned a post-graduate certificate in Rehabilitation Administration with 21 Ph.D. level units. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Northern Colorado. Warne’s also done some stunt work in the film industry. He’s a member of the Screen Actors Guild with four television and film credits, including The Substitute starring Tom Berenger.
He was inducted into the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004, the same year he developed the Warrior Society Development, LLC, which is a consulting firm in San Diego, Calif. The youth football camps are just a part of the circle, but it’s a big part. He stays involved with at risk Native kids and isolated reservation youth to help provide positive reinforcement and coaching for life success. “I try to talk with the organizers at each camp to learn about what’s important and then try to make each camp personal,” Warne explained. “I involve the community leaders and even have the elders help wherever I can. The Canadian kids were very receptive and I hope we can do it again next year.”