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Dan Ninham
Special to Indian Country Today

They displayed tribal flags and beadwork. They performed the haka. They honored their nations and their people.

At least 25 Indigenous athletes who competed this year in the Tokyo Olympics brought medals home to their nations and their communities.

New Zealand struck gold in more ways than one. After sending the largest-ever contingent of Indigenous athletes from one country, New Zealand then led the world in Indigenous athletes receiving medals at the Tokyo Olympics.

Of the 33 athletes of Māori descent who competed in Tokyo for New Zealand, 21 returned home with medals. The gold-medal women’s rugby team included seven Indigenous members, and the silver-medal men’s rugby team likewise had seven.

And perhaps the most-awarded Indigenous athletes in the Tokyo games were two women from New Zealand: Lisa Carrington, who won three gold medals in kayaking competitions, and Kerri Gowler, who won a gold and three silvers in rowing competitions.

(Related: Indigenous Olympians bring home the medals)

Of the 39 gold medals won by U.S. athletes in Tokyo, one was claimed by an Indigenous athlete – and it was one for the record books. Carissa Moore, an ethnic Hawaiian, won the first gold medal ever for surfing, which made its debut as an Olympic sport this year.

Two other Indigenous Hawaiians competed in the games. Heimana Reynolds, a Native Hawaiian and Tahitian, competed in park skateboarding, and Micah Christenson, also a Native Hawaiian, in volleyball. But they did not advance to the medal rounds.

And Indigenous athletes won three medals for Australia, including National Basketball Association player Patty Mills, who carried the nations flag before helping the basketball team win silver.

Still, the total number of Indigenous athletes participating in the games is not known, since most countries — including the U.S. — do not track that information. And there likely are many more Indigenous athletes who go unrecognized, particularly in South and Central America, the Caribbean and Pacific regions where many people consider themselves Indigenous.

A review of the medal winners by Indian Country Today identified the following athletes as Indigenous. They are listed by name with their tribal or ethnic affiliation.

United States

Women’s surfing, gold
Carissa Moore, ethnic Hawaiian


Men’s mixed tennis doubles, bronze
Ash Barty, Ngarigo

Women’s beach volleyball, silver
Taliqua Clancy, Wulli Wulli/Goreng Goreng

Men’s basketball team, bronze
Patty Mills, Muralag/Ynunga

New Zealand

Women’s rugby sevens team, gold
Gayle​ Broughton, Ngāti Ruanui/Ngāruahine
Stacey Fluhler, Ngāi Tūhoe
Sarah Hirini,​ Ngāti Kahungunu Ki te Wairoa
Shiray​ Kaka, Ngāti Maniapoto
Tyla Nathan-Wong, Ngāpuhi
Risi Pouri-Lane, Ngāti Kuia/Ngāi Tahu/Ngāti Kōata
Portia​ Woodman, Ngāpuhi

Women’s kayak, double, 500 meters, gold
Lisa Carrington, Ngāti Porou/Te Aitanga ā Māhaki

Women’s kayak, single, 200 meters, gold
Lisa Carrington, Ngāti Porou/Te Aitanga ā Māhaki

Women’s kayak, single, 500 meters, gold
Lisa Carrington, Ngāti Porou/Te Aitanga ā Māhaki

Women’s double sculls, silver
Kerri Gowler, Rangitāne

Women’s pair rowing, gold
Kerri Gowler, Rangitāne

Women’s eight rowing, silver
Kelsey Bevan, Ngāpuhi
Kerri Gowler, Rangitāne
Jackie Gowler, Rangitāne
Caleb​ Shepherd, Ngāti Porou

Men’s rugby sevens team, silver
Kurt Baker, Ngāpuhi
Dylan​ Collier, Whakatōhea
Andrew Knewstubb, Ngāpuhi
Ngarohi McGarvey, Ngāi Tūhoe
Regan​ Ware, Ngāti Porou ki Harataunga ki Mataora/Ngāti Korokī Kahukura
Joe Webber, Ngāti Ranginui
William Warbrick, Ngāti Rangitihi, Ngāti Awa

Men’s eights rowing, gold
Michael Brake, Ngāti Porou

Women’s shot put, bronze
Valerie Adams, Tonga

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