February 21, 2007

Tough odds for Native athletes

Native American athletes face imposing hurdlesHe's aware of the long odds he and other Native American athletes face, even those who leave their reservation to improve their chances of being recruited. Compared with white Hispanics and black non-Hispanics, Native American athletes among the country's 562 federally recognized tribes—341 in the lower 48 states—are more under-represented on NCAA teams.

"As a Native American, nobody takes you too seriously that you can play at that level," Hemstreet says. "It's my job to go out and get noticed."

For most Native Americans, that concept—standing out individually—is at odds with their culture, which promotes the principle of functioning as a group. That, says Ron Trosper, a Harvard-educated member of the Flathead tribe in Montana who is associate professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, hinders the advancement of Native American athletes, starting at the college level, where individual achievement is rewarded.

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