Books are published every day. But it is rare that books are written by 21-year-olds.
It is even more rare that the young author played in a Final Four round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. And it’s rarer still that the individual is Native American.
Jude Schimmel has accomplished a great deal in her young life: She recently earned a bachelor’s degree—in three years—from the University of Louisville, where she was a point guard on the women’s basketball team. Schimmel ended her collegiate basketball career with 221 steals and 392 assists.
In 2013, she won the NCAA Elite 89 award, for having the highest GPA of any player in the Final Four. She was recently named a Nike N7 Ambassador, and will attend the first White House Tribal Youth Gathering on July 9. On top of that, she is continuing her studies to earn a master’s degree in sports administration.
And if those accomplishments are not impressive enough, in April she released her first book, Dreamcatcher.
Jude Schimmel's book "Dreamcatcher" is available on her website.
In a recent interview with the Native Voice, she talks about her book, her life and the lessons she’s learned.
“Obviously I’m really young,” she said, “but I’ve had a lot of life experience, and I’m kind of just telling others what I went through and what I’ve learned from that.”
The book begins with her life story thus far, describing her childhood with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian reservation as “extremely simple and comfortable to my family and me.”
“On my reservation everyone knew everyone else,” she said. “There really wasn’t such a thing as a stranger.”
She also describes her family moving from the reservation to Portland, Oregon, and the transition that entailed, and she includes some of her experiences in college.
She ends the book by saying: “just trying to explain Native Americans.”
Schimmel said her interest in writing began around middle school, and she values the fact that she is now a role model for many.
“By far the most inspiring and influential thing for me is the fact I have been blessed to be in a position where I can inspire and teach others to better their own lives,” she writes in the book.
And that is her main goal with the book, to inspire and teach.
Schimmel does not shy away from speaking about Native American life, and the issues that plague it from both inside and outside influences. “I feel like there’s a lot of issues that have gone on, you know, to Native Americans and within Native American communities that kind of set them back and (there has been) a lot of unfairness and oppression.”
“I guess the biggest thing is people should learn to understand that Native Americans are not in the position they are simply because they chose to be or because they are lazy… silly assumptions like that,” she said.
Schimmel also lamented the lack of resources for Native Americans to pursue their talents.
“There’s a lot of Native Americans out there, I know them personally and from visiting a lot of reservations, there’s so much talent and not many Native Americans get the opportunity to showcase their talent,” she said.
She pointed out that many Native Americans don’t have the chance to go to school to improve their talents, or to pursue their dream careers.
It is partly her personal experience and knowledge of this issue that inspired her to write Dreamcatcher in the first place.
“There’s so many Native Americans out there who are looking for a source of inspiration and hope that they can go out there and achieve their dreams,” she said.
While Schimmel thinks that what readers take away from her book depends on the person, she explained the overall theme as this: “That regardless of where you come from or what obstacles might be in your way, there’s hope and there’s inspiration out there. That basically you can go out there and live your dream and do what you want with your life.”
To put it more succinctly, she advises “Do what you need to do for yourself. Be successful, be happy, live a positive life.”
Schimmel has already had great success in inspiring others, but she is far from done. One thing that’s on her to-do list is to create a foundation that will help encourage and support Native youth, though she says that will come later.
Dreamcatcher is available on Schimmel’s website.
Dakota Sherek is a 2015-‘16 Native American Journalism Fellow. Of Ojibwe and Cherokee heritage, she wrote this piece for the newsroom immersion week for NAJF Fellows at the annual Native American Journalists Association’s recent conference in Alexandria, Virginia. She interviewed Jude Schimmel on the phone and later spoke to her in person at the UNITY Tribal Youth Gathering in Washington, D.C.