Dream Catchers: The Crow Cowgirls Hit the Road for Shoni Schimmel
On Thursday, August 7, WNBA rookie and All-Star Shoni Schimmel played her first game in the Pacific Northwest in three years. The game was a sellout, with Natives showing up in force to cheer on their hero, who, after leaving her home rez (Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation) excelled at Franklin High School in Portland, Oregon, and became a nationally-known star at the University of Louisville. Schimmel was in town on Thursday with the Atlanta Dream for a game against the Seattle Storm.
Though just 22 years old, Schimmel is arguably Indian country's biggest celebrity, and she is the latest chapter in the long and proud history of elite Indian athletes that includes Billy Mills and Jim Thorpe. When Schimmel was a Louisville Cardinal, Indian country became Louisville Cardinals fans; now, when the Atlanta Dream comes to town, Native fans show up in droves to watch their favorite player.
Schimmel's story has played out on the national stage, and while doing so it has touched the lives of Native Americans everywhere. For young basketball players on the rez, particularly girls, taking part in the Schimmel phenomenon, being in that crowd surrounded by Natives cheering with one voice for their hero, is a priceless experience. That's what inspired Cori Pretty Weasel, coach of the Crow Cowgirls basketball team, to pack her young athletes into a van to make the road trip from the Crow Agency near Billings, Montana, to Seattle. Pretty Weasel took a few moments to reflect on the trip and what it meant to her girls.
Can you tell us about the Crow Cowgirls?
The Crow Cowgirls are a group of 5th and 6th grade girls: Kamber Good Luck, Alyssa Pretty Weasel, Marion Hugs, Kylee Old Ek, Breanna Old Elk, Kinahlei Armajo, Maria Stewart, Madison Big Back, and Jordan Jefferson. The core of our team has been together for a year now. We're an independent team. We play in a lot of tribal tournaments and tournaments off the rez as well.
Can you give us the details of the trip?
We left Crow Agency, Tuesday, August 5th. Spent the night in Coeur D'Alene and left for Seattle the next day. Thanks to the support from our community and tribe, we were able to fundraise to cover all of the cost for our entire trip. We've never been on a trip without playing in a tournament somewhere, so I thought it would be nice to take the team as a whole and enjoy the trip. So we got there Wednesday, did some shopping and sightseeing, watched the game and left on Friday. On our way back we stopped at Silverwood Amusement Park outside of Coeur D'Alene. We would have liked to stay in Seattle a little longer but we had to make it back to a 3-on-3 tournament in Billings, Montana that started on Saturday.
How aware are your young players of Shoni's career?
They are very aware of her career and try to catch every WNBA game on tv. They were so excited when I told them I was planning on taking them to the game in Seattle. I think most of them started following her heavilly during her junior year in college. I took my little sisters to [WNBA star] Tamika Catchings' annual basketball camp this past winter, in Indianapolis, which is close to Louisville. They sold a lot of Cardinals gear there. The girls loaded up on it to wear for college day every Wednesday at their school.
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