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Indian Country Today

The coronavirus pandemic may be raging around the country, still colleges and universities are signing athletes to teams. If you want to know the latest news about which Native athlete has signed a letter of intent, you can check NDNsports. For 20 years this web based group has closely followed Native athletes in sports such as baseball, basketball, football, lacrosse, and running, to name a few. Brent Cahwee is the co-founder and he joins us today to talk about the number of Native athletes who are competing in sports at universities across the country. 

Here are a few of Brent Cahwee's comments:  

"I can't believe it's gone by so quick. In 20 years we've covered so many different athletes from so many different reservations in Indigenous communities across North America. And, you know, we're at the point now where the athletes that we used to cover in the beginning years of our existence, now they have kids who are signing with colleges or they have kids that are playing with the colleges. And that just kind of makes me feel really old, but I'm glad to still be out here doing it."

"We were two college students at the time when we came up with the idea and we had a friend of ours that we went to college with who had a brother who was playing professional football in the NFL. His name was Kywin Supernaw and he was a defensive back for the Detroit Lions. And we thought that was just like the coolest thing, you know, for us as sports fanatics, just the coolest thing to see Native Americans playing on a professional level. But everyone, we talk to our friends, our relatives, and no one ever even heard of the guy. And I said, well, we've got to change this."

"And also during that year Notah Begay was going off on the PGA world. He had four wins in 2000 and he was just like the biggest name in golf, regardless of race. And nobody knew about Notah as well. So this is around the time the internet was really growing and we thought, well, let's develop a platform where we can highlight these athletes who are excelling at the highest level in college sports and professional sports. And so really that's kind of how the idea came about, let's highlight the successes and get their names out there and promote them the best we can so that people will know about it and share with their communities."

"You know, you can't deny that basketball is the most popular sport in Indian Country. And, second behind that, running, cross country, track and field were the second biggest sports. And I think what we've seen over the years as we continue to grow and find different sports, you know, we cover rodeo now."

"Boxing, basically every reservation has a boxing gym in some form or some fashion. Obviously with the pandemic going on there hasn't been a lot of opportunities for athletes to compete this summer but definitely boxing is something that I think is definitely another mainstay in Indian Country."

"Obviously with the pandemic going on, a lot of colleges are reevaluating their cost structure with athletics. I think the two biggest recent headlines, was Stanford cutting 11 sports from their program, the Ivy League had decided to cancel all fall sports, which is huge, you know, Harvard, Princeton, and Dartmouth, those schools are not going to have a season at all at the division one level, which is huge."

"In Indian Country, Haskell Indian Nations University they're not going to have a fall sports season as well. So a lot of the recruits who signed for cross country or signing for basketball or volleyball they're not going to be able to come to campus period but also not have that transition from high school to college. So the pandemic has really created the unknown right now in the sports world."

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"When you go back in, in recent times you remember the buzz that the Schimmel sisters caused back in 2012, 2014... Well, most people didn't realize that they had a younger sister (Milan) at the time and she most recently signed with the University of Cincinnati, which is a division school, in Cincinnati, division one school. So that's been pretty exciting for that family to continue that basketball legacy, that basketball tradition."

"A recent signing on a different level and professional women's sports, Madison Hammond, who is a Navajo, and San Felipe Pueblo, she recently signed in the women's professional soccer league, that just started this summer and they just started playing games this past week. And she's played at Wake Forest her four years and just graduated this summer and she signed with the OL Reign in Seattle. She signed a two year contract with an option for three. So that's kind of huge for the Pueblo and Navajo reservations to have a professional women's soccer player, who is also the cousin of Notah Begay as well."

"Josie White Eagle out of Solen High School in North Dakota. She recently signed with Haskell Indian Nations University, my alma mater, to run cross country and track. So obviously she's not going to get to compete because Haskell isn't going to have a fall season, but it's always exciting to see the kids who sign with the tribal colleges as well. With NDN Sports we support all the athletes that compete at the tribal colleges as well."

"I understand from the few of the coaches I've spoken with, they are continuing to provide workouts over Zoom, actually, the basketball coaches and cross country coaches and stuff. So they're still expected to train and be in shape, they don't just get a year to sit on the couch and do nothing they're still expected to perform and train every week."

"Chance Russ has a daughter who competes on the professional circuit, professional cheer circuit and stuff like that. I believe she'll be an incoming freshmen at the University of Oklahoma. Our website did a story on her recently about her competitive cheer, they had won nationals last year, as a junior in high school. And then she decided to try track and field, and she was excelling at track and field. And she goes actually on our way to possibly win a state title in her division in Oklahoma. 

"So we're very fortunate that we have such a large following on our social media accounts. And that allows us access into those communities that are small and you know they provide the information to us or point us to the information."

"I still keep in touch with a lot of them. The best resource in the Native communities is these former college athletes. I mean, they paved the path for those communities. And so now they run camps or people in the community recognize them as leaders, athletic leaders in the community."

"It's been really neat to see them post-college post athletic career to go on and become successful either tribal council members and so on and so forth, or business leaders or community leaders and stuff like that. So I do still keep in contact with them. I think that's what makes us really unique."

"I met with a kid recently his name was JuJu Ramirez and he got a division one offer out of high school and I'm looking for great things to come out of him and to be our biggest recruit we've ever had out of Indian country."

Also in the newscast, Carina Dominguez has the latest numbers of positive COVID-19 tests in Indian Country.

The anchor and executive producer of the newscast is Patty Talahongva.