Ryneldi Becenti (Navajo) was one of the first Native American women to play in the WNBA.

4 Native Women Athletes in the Hall of Fame You Might Not Know About

Rodney Harwood

Native women have carried a strong voice in a warrior’s world for generations.Doors are opening, and Indian Country can expect to see more and more women taking their place in the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame over the next several years.

“We definitely need to have more women in the Hall of Fame and we’re taking a look at that in our induction process,” American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame president Carol Green told ICTMN. “I really like the quality of our inductees and I think our pioneers are inspiring Indian girls to know they can do great things if they work hard at it.”

Here are four Native women who’ve made it to the American Indian Hall of Fame:

1.     Dawn Kelly Allen (Euchee/Quapaw/Cherokee) was one of the first women inducted to the HOF in 1995. She was a women’s single, double and mixed double champion in the National North American Indian Tennis Championships; as well as a single and double champion in the Worlds Fair All-Indian Tennis Tournament, the Arizona Indian Tennis Tournament and the Creek Nation Indian Tennis Tournament.

2.     Dawn inspired her niece, Yawna Allen (Cherokee/Quapaw/Euchee), a former Oklahoma State tennis star, to play the game. She became a seven-time champion of the North American Indian Tennis Association women’s open singles. Yawna, who trained at the IMG Academy Bollettieri Tennis program, and later played on the Women’s Tennis Association tour, was inducted in 2013.

“I can’t say I was raised 100 percent traditional, but I have a lot of those teachings and influences that our elders passed down and I’m very, very proud of that,” Yawna said. “That’s why I’m happy to be in the Hall of Fame because it gives me an opportunity to shine some light on important issues. Yes, we are Native. We’re still here and we can be just as good as everybody else.”

3.     Ryneldi Becenti (Navajo) changed the face of women’s basketball when she became the first Native American to play in the WNBA. Becenti, who was inducted into the Hall of Heroes in 1996, was also the first women’s basketball player at Arizona State University to have her jersey retired. Becenti averaged 7.1 assists per game at ASU (1991-93), which remains a Pacific-12 Conference record.

4.     Karen Mackey (Santee Sioux) made her mark in history in 1995 when the HOF inducted the first women. Mackey, who is a Rokudan sixth degree black belt, distinguished herself in the sport of judo. Her accomplishments as a national and elite international competitor include a third-place showing in the U.S. Olympic Sports Festival. She was also third at the Pan Am Trials, as well as a medalist at the National Championships (1978-80).

The Seventh Generation carries a strong voice today with basketball players such as Shoni and Jude Schimmel (Umatilla), Angel Goodrich (Cherokee), or volleyball players like Tiana Dockery (Navajo), Lauren Schad (Cheyenne River Sioux) and Alicia Ostrander (Oglala Lakota). Maybe one day Indian Country will see these young women take their place among the heroes.


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