An audience gathered Nov. 9, in celebration of the tradition of a people whose roots are tied into the red dirt of Oklahoma. This year’s festival had a special theme: Native American athletes. The event honored past athletes like Jim Thorpe, Allie Reynolds and Andy Payne as well as today’s athletes.
“This day is yours oh, God. This day is yours.” A blessing to honor the day was given in Kiowa, then in English by Steve Littleman before things got underway.
Two Native American fitness figures were honored by the Norman Public Library: Steve Daugherty, Director of OKC Indian Clinic Wellness Center, and Caitlin Baker, 14-year-old competitive swimmer and youth advocate of living a healthy lifestyle.
After receiving her award, Baker spoke of her recent trip to New York City and how she talked with children who asked questions like, “In Oklahoma do you wear the same clothes as us?” and “Do you ride a horse and live in a tepee or do you drive a car?.”
Baker said she didn’t realize how strong some of the stereotypes of Native Americans were and that she was honored to be a part of a day about education and respect.
I don't know Steve Daugherty, but it sounds as if he's being honored for starting or running the wellness center, not for anything physical he accomplished. Caitlin Baker was honored for starting a nonprofit healthy-lifestyle organization--again, not for her physical accomplishments.
This tallies with what I said before about athletes such as Sam Bradford. They aren't role models whom we should emulate just because they're good at running or throwing a ball. Only athletes who use their accomplishments to help their people deserve our respect. As the Pacific Northwest Indians showed with their potlatch ceremonies, success isn't about who has the most, but who gives the most.
That's why martial artist Reggie Mitchell is worth admiring but not quarterback Sam Bradford (yet). For more on the subject, see Smashing People: The "Honor" of Being an Athlete.
"Only athletes who use their accomplishments to help their people deserve our respect."
The only Indian athlete that I can think of who helps his people via his accomplishments (or rather he helps a lot of Indian youth through his programs) is Billy Mills.
Perhaps someone can enlighten me on this particular issue?
Well, swimmer Caitlin Baker has her CAITLINB (Competitive American Indians Turning Lifestyles Into New Beginnings) nonprofit. Martial artist Reginald Mitchell has partnered with comedian Ernest Tsosie III to form BRAVE (Being Ready Against Violent Encounters). Golfer Notah Begay III has a foundation dedicated to creating sustainable athletic programs for Native youth.
We've also read about Hulk Hogan's effort to establish his Dreamseekers nonprofit. Although he isn't Native, he's an athlete who's using his fame to help Natives.
For Caitlin's thoughts on the subject, see Caitlin Baker Responds.
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