Pursuing dreams as a young Native American today isn’t all fun and games, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to include some games.
That’s why University of Louisville basketball players and sisters Shoni and Jude Schimmel and their mother and coach Cecilie Moses brought their two-day basketball camp to Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation this week, with a mixture of motivation in overcoming the adversities of modern Native American life with a large dose of play.
Shoni just wrapped up her freshman year playing for the Lady Cards and her sister intends to join her there soon.
As they told the camps attendees, it isn’t always easy to achieve their dreams, but they stuck with it.
“If you love something so much, you just got to go out there, ” Shoni said. “It’s you against the world, to be honest with you. You can do it. ”
She had some help against the world from her mother, who said she understands the challenges of trying to make it as a Native American.
“Your dreams are broken. Your spirit is broken and you feel like you want to give up, but you just got to hold on to something and keep believing that it is going to come true, ” Moses said.
She needed to be there for her daughters after facing the challenges of growing up on the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon, from the racism she said she felt in the areas around the reservation to the struggle of getting pregnant in high school and wanting to drop out.
“I didn’t care, and that’s the way Indians are, ” Moses said. “We can be happy and not have to deal with that. We’re not about trying to keep up with who’s who and what’s what. We’re OK just being happy. Sometimes that’s a good thing, and sometimes that’s a bad thing.
“Sometimes you have to do work. That was a lesson I had to learn. ”
She got through the stress and strain because she wanted to guarantee her daughters a better life than she had. And it took hard work.
“So I understand why a lot of the Indian kids, I don’t want to say ‘give up, ’ but they just stay away, ” Moses said.
Huck Sunchild, director of the Chippewa Cree Wellness Center that brought the Schimmels and Moses and hosted the basketball camp, said he saw that same feeling and other impediments to success on Rocky Boy in his own experience and in the youth today.
“If somebody from here goes out there and succeeds, our people don’t really appreciate that, ” Sunchild said. “They think, ‘She acts better than us, ’ or whatever, but that’s not the case. I went through the same thing when I went to school.
“It was about the people I met, the places I’ve seen and the education I got. And that’s what I want our youth to realize. ”
He thought maybe if the kids saw the success Shoni had, it would inspire them to pursue their own dreams.
“Maybe Shoni could help them realize their potential because she’s realizing hers, ” Sunchild said. “I believe if they see one of us, to me a Native American is a Native American, and if they see that they can relate to her and think, ‘If she can do that, I can do that. ’”
The kids who attended the camp certainly did seem to recognize her success, following her and her sister around, taking pictures and asking them for autographs.
As far as what motivates Shoni, she said she owes it to her family, who helped her get the opportunity. And she wants to prove to critics what a Native American can do.
“I just go out there and prove to people I can do it, ” Shoni said. “Going out there and proving them wrong is my goal. ”