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Thursday, March 27, 2014


- Reader Gary Witherspoon looks at the HBO Special, Rez life, Umatilla and the Schimmel sisters

- Louisville softball takes two against DePaul



The Louisville WBB team nearly played that perfect game that Jeff has been talking about for some weeks. There were a few defensive lapses in the first few minutes of the game that led to four easy baskets for Iowa, and the reserves made a few miscues at the end, but otherwise it was the best game of the season. Only the game at Ball State might have been played more nearly perfect, but the competition and the significance of this game was much greater than the Ball State game.

It was a tough night for Sara Hammond who could not seem to do anything right, and Asia was limited by foul trouble. The officials called the game extremely close.

Later last night I saw HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel and their feature on the Schimmel sisters. I am going to try to offer a short review of that. I know something about the subject. I was a professor of Anthropology and American Indian Studies at the University of Washington for 25 years, and I was a head BB coach at the Navajo Academy for 5 years. I played in Rez ball tournaments for over 20 years in the Southwest, and my son played in many Rez ball tournaments in the Northwest more recently. I had many students from the Umatilla reservation and have taken classes there on field trips. It is not the place these films make it out to be.

The reservation is an absolutely beautiful place of over 200,000 acres. It is not a cesspool of abject poverty that people want to escape. Since the Wildhorse Casino, motel and related businesses were created, jobs and income have been reasonably good for most tribal members. They have a beautiful multimillion dollar tribal museum that tells their history, language and culture. They have lots of recreation facilities. Housing is modest but good, and life there is comfortable and friendly.

Leaving the Rez is not such a challenge because life there is so bad but more because it is so good. While there are problems there as there are problems everywhere, it is not the ugly place of despair and abject poverty the films made by non-Indians want to portray it to be. But the journey off the rez that Shoni and Jude took, nevertheless, involved a big challenge and represented a huge leap of faith for Shoni and Jude. The journey involved leaving a beautiful place, a rich traditional culture and and all their relatives and friends to go 2,000 miles away to a big city university and try to succeed in the rigors and demands of higher education and try to compete at the highest level of college athletics. Native Americans understand the difficulties and hazards of this journey and appreciate what Shoni and Jude have done and take inspiration from it. These film makers are putting their own spin on it and much of that spin is inaccurate.
Also, a lot of non-Indians seem to think Shoni and Jude are big because Native Americans do not have any other big time sports heroes. That is not true. Recent Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford is NA from Oklahoma, and he was the first overall pick in the NFL draft. And Jacoby Ellsbury from the Warm Springs Rez near Shoni’s led Oregon State to the College World Series championship, and was a prominent part of the Boston Red Sox’s two World Series championships in the last 7 years. Notah Begay, a teammate and close friend of Tiger Woods, won two tournaments and was rookie of the year of the PGA tour before his golf career was cut short because of an injury to his back. All of these athletes have appeared at Native American events and given free clinics in Native American communities.

Angel Goodrich led 12 seed Kansas to two big upsets in last year’s NCAA tournament, and she made it to the sweet 16. She is Native American from Oklahoma and has appeared with Jude at many events. She beat out Skylar Diggins for Tulsa’s starting point guard position in the WNBA last season.

So why are Shoni and Jude so big among Native Americans? I think there are several reasons. One is they play Rez ball and are proud of it, and basketball is really big on reservations and even in urban Indian communities. Golf, football and baseball are not as big as basketball in contemporary NA culture. In Arizona 25,000 Navajos will travel over 200 miles to watch their girls basketball teams compete for and usually win the state 3A championship. Boys teams also attract big crowds, but the girls teams get just as big or bigger crowds. Two high schools on the Rez have field houses that seat 5500 and 7500 respectively and they fill them up. A new high school gym on the Navajo reservation is now under construction that will seat over 10,000. These are better facilities than most college teams play in.

Shoni and Jude’s popularity also involves who they are and how they conduct themselves and how they respect and embrace the communities from which they came and with which they identify.

Their popularity also took a big jump after the Baylor upset. The NCAA tournament is a unique sporting event, and it captures the interest and imagination of people all across the country.

For Native Americans, Shoni’s shot over Griner was a symbolic victory over all the adverse giants that have besieged and overrun their lands and nations over the last 500 years. The only equivalent of that is the victory in college football of the Carlisle Indian School over the Cadets of Army in 1913. That Army team included future WW II generals Patton, Bradley and Eisenhower.

I think the Schimmels are also big because they are a sister act and have different personalities and styles. There is something there with which everyone can identify.

It is also important to Native Americans how the University of Louisville and its supporters have embraced and appreciated the Schimmels. As a result, it is not just Shoni and Jude that Native Americans support, but it is the whole team they have adopted and support.

Gary Witherspoon, Professor Emeritus
Anthropology and American Indian Studies
The University of Washington



Louisville 8 – DePaul 0 (six innings)

Junior Kelsi Jones went 2 for 4 with a three-run double to help lead the Cardinals to an 8-0 win over
DePaul. Freshman Maryssa Becker got the win, holding the Blue Demons scoreless on three hits and striking out six in 5.0 innings.

The teams played through three scoreless innings before the Cardinals broke through with seven runs in the fourth. Katie Keller delivered a leadoff single to break up Kristen Verdun’s no-hitter and stole second. Maryssa Becker’s base hit placed runners at first for Brittany Duncan who reached on an error to bring Keller home. Pinch-runner Jordan McNary stole third and came home on a hit by Maggie Ruckenbrod. Kayla Soles singled to load the bases for Hannah Kiyohara who drew a walk to plate Duncan. Jones connected on a three-run double to give the Cards a 6-0 lead. She came around to score on Whitney Arion’s sacrifice bunt to make the score 7-0.

UofL tacked on a run in the sixth when Kiyohara and Jones led off the inning with back-to-back hits and Arion walked to load the bases for Keller’s RBI single down the left field line for the 8-0 final.

Kirsten Verdun (12-4) took the loss, giving up seven runs on five hits and striking out four in 4.0 innings.

Becker improved to 7-1 on the season and allowed only one DePaul runner in scoring position when Verdun registered a two-out double in the third. Rachel LeCoq combined on the shutout, giving up one hit in one inning of relief. Keller was 2 for 3 with an RBI and a run. Kiyohara was 1 for 2 with two runs.

Louisville 7 – DePaul 3

In game two, the Cardinals overcame a 3-0 deficit to beat the Blue Demons 7-3. Brittany Duncan was 3 for 4 with four RBIs while Kelsi Jones was 3 for 3 with two runs and two stolen bases and Maryssa Becker picked up her second win of the day to help UofL complete the doubleheader sweep and move to 20-11 on the season.

DePaul (18-8) jumped to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first when Kirsten Verdun and Allie Braden opened the game with back-to-back walks to set up Mary Connelly’s three-run home run.

The Cardinals answered with four runs in the home half of the first. Jones got things started when she beat the throw for an infield single. Whitney Arion followed with a walk to set up Katie Keller’s two-run double which cut the lead to one run. Maryssa Becker doubled to bring Keller home and tie the score. Becker crossed the plate on Brittany Duncan’s RBI single to give UofL a 4-3 lead.

Louisville tallied three more runs in the sixth. Jones drew a one-out walk and moved to second on Arion’s bunt and Becker walked to load the bases. Duncan stepped up to the plate and ripped a three-run double down the right field line for the 7-3 final.

Becker (8-1) picked up her second win of the day, holding the Blue Demons scoreless while scattering two hits and striking out five in 7.0 innings of relief. Caralisa Connell got the start and allowed three earned runs in the first. Becker went 1 for 3 with two runs and an RBI.

Verdun (12-5) took the loss, allowing seven earned runs on 10 hits and striking out two in 6.0 innings. Connolly was 1 for 3 with a three-run homer. Nicole Pihl had the other hit for DePaul.

UofL (20-11, 2-1 American Athletic Conference) will hit the road for a three-game American Athletic Conference series at Houston March 29-30
(Info on games courtesy of Louisville Sports Information Department)


  1. Hey Gary, thank you for sharing your views on Umatilla. You captured what we are here. Thank you.

  2. Great take Gary! Enjoyed the piece. Send Paulie more contributions. I know why you left my pickem stats out, Paulie. Gaining on you. LOL.

    the real Joe Hill

    1. Joe...I have 12 teams of the 16 still dancing. You have 11. I like my chances. Blue Lou, Curtis F.and Kenny S. have 13 remaining, though. It is there that the danger lies.

      Best of luck all


  3. Umatilla Rez is like Disney Land compared to most reservations, we do have a lot going economically, we are doing good and we're searching for ways to break away from just making money off the casino. Myself, I can't leave because the tribe gives me a great job here at Tamastslikt/museum, low cost tribal housing gives me a good place to live, everything is so close to each other, the mountains which I love are with in half hour away, its comfortable, its hard to leave, though I did it for US Navy, they told me the rez will always be here and GO, LEAVE I did only bc my mom was so proud of me, I'm thankful for the experience. We got it all, but one thing is the big leaders of our tribe always stress education but wont build our Nixyaawii Community School, a real school as they say, a building, currently they are housed in a modular--google it. Our basketball court, the one you see shown in the documentary's isn't a regulation sized court, small, a lot of ppl step out of bounds trying to shoot base line 3's, our gym is TINY! We have about 6 rows of bleachers, and the floor is concrete, but we got heat and a roof so I guess we're good lol. I grew up in a time when we had nothing, I lived in poverty at a time when there was no casino so I'm thankful we have something for our youth. So really we don't have it all, our 9-12 grade kids are housed in a modular, our gym is tiny where its always standing room only lol. Any donations??? ;-) ---Umatilla23


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