Native Americans underrepresented in NCAA

Facebook/Tribal Nations PR Conference Jessie Stomski Seim

Downtown Minneapolis will be hosting this year’s Women’s Final Four, but for factual accuracy the area’s entire ancestry should be duly recognized.

“I just would like to acknowledge that the Final Four and where we stand today is the original homeland of the Dakota and Ojibwe people, who have lived here for centuries and generations,” Jessie Stomski Seim, general counsel for the Prairie Island Indian Community since 2015, told reporters and others, including the MSR, at a Feb. 22 press conference at the city’s basketball arena. “They really are the original hosts to the Final Four,” she said.

Stomski Seim, a former local prep basketball player at Tartan High School, later played at Wisconsin (1998-2002) and briefly overseas before embarking on a law career. She is an enrolled citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and has been a lawyer for over a decade. Now married and the mother of two, Stomski Seim oversees government and commercial legal matters for the Prairie Island community, including the tribe’s Treasure Island Resort and Casino. 

She and other advocates are planning to use the Final Four later this month as a platform to bring awareness to the low number of Native American scholarship athletes. Less than 100 Native American/Alaska Indian-identified athletes were on NCAA rosters in 2020. The total Native American population in the United States is around three million.

“That has been an issue for a very long time—that is barely 1% of all NCAA student-athletes [who] are Native Americans,” continued Stomski Seim. “It’s not because of a lack of talent. It’s not because of a lack of love for competition in sport. It’s really a lack of access to those opportunities.” 

To hammer home her point, Stomski Seim said there are three goals she and others want to accomplish at the national event: “The first is [that]there’s an awareness of the Indigenous people,” she explained. “The second goal is awareness of this issue. The third goal is the opportunity to expose Native youth to the tournament.

“We’re bringing 150 kids to each day of the games,” noted Stomski Seim. “We’re also doing a clinic at the Minneapolis American Indian Center [in South Minneapolis] and hosting a feast,” she said. Other elements include a halftime show and a video shown during the games “to talk about this and to gain awareness,” added Stomski Seim.

Final Four by the numbers:

40 – 2022 will mark the 40th anniversary of NCAA women’s championships.

$5 – The cost of Women’s Final Four tickets in 1982, the first year of the tournament. In Tampa Bay in 2019, tickets cost $75 to $275.

Globetracking the Lynx 

There are still several WNBA players playing overseas in spite of the Russian invasion of Ukraine: Kayla McBride and Yvonne Turner are playing in EuroLeague quarterfinals for their respective overseas clubs on Thursday, then both return to regular-season action on Sunday; Rennia Davis (Elitzur Holon) also in action Thursday, Saturday and next Monday; Crystal Dangerfield (Elitzur Ramla) also in action Thursday.