Tribal Colleges and Universities Participate in World Indigenous Games

Feb 21st, 2016 | By | Category: 27-3: The Trials of Teacher Education, Tribal College News
By Katrina Montoya

Savanah Chavez of Chief Dull Knife College (center), along with 23 other TCU students, competed in the first World Indigenous Games in Palmas, Brazil. Photo by Katrina Montoya

A team of 24 current and former tribal college and university (TCU) students and staff represented the United States at the first World Indigenous Games in Palmas, Brazil. The event was an extraordinary exchange of culture and camaraderie, as Indigenous peoples from all over the world came together for 10 days of competition and demonstrations in the Amazon Basin. Over 2,000 athletes from 23 countries participated in universal traditional activities like archery, spear toss, canoeing, swimming, running, and tug of war. The most modern sport was soccer, with all events drawing thousands of spectators.

Eight American Indian nations were represented on the intertribal team from the United States, with TCU presidents Dr. Richard Littlebear of Chief Dull Knife College and Dr. David Yarlott of Little Big Horn College serving as team leaders. Members from the U.S. team competed in archery, canoeing, spear toss, the 100-meter dash, the 8.4-kilometer run, and men’s and women’s tug of war. E.J. Old Bull (Crow) came away with the bronze medal in the spear toss, while Teri Lea McCormick (Crow) and Felixia Chischilly (Diné) took fifth and sixth in the 8.4-km run.

Participants were encouraged to dress traditionally. The event was a colorful spectacle that sported a mix of regalia and athletic attire. “Even though it was hot weather we used our elk tooth dress. We braided our hair,” says Aldean Big Hair Good Luck of the Crow Nation. “To be part of the ceremony we felt prideful of our culture and who we [are]. Each one of us wore our regalia of the nation we represented.”

In the athletes’ village where participants stayed, TCU delegates had the unique opportunity to immerse themselves in world culture under one roof. On a daily basis, different countries would center themselves in the middle of the village pavilion to mingle. “It’s more about the celebration, not winning,” said Tye LaFranier (Northern Cheyenne). “I met a lot of people. I made a lot of friends.” Around meal times local Brazilian tribes would be bused in to dance and sing jubilantly in a stunning display of body paint, seeds, straw, and colorful feathers. Other times representatives from Canada’s First Nations drummed and danced, or Indigenous people from the Philippines performed on the gangsa drum. Representatives from the U.S. introduced attendees to hand games and basketball, while Indigenous Mongolians played the mesmerizing morin khuur, a traditional stringed instrument. Every evening participants from New Zealand ended the day with a beautiful song in Maori.

The World Indigenous Games was a 30- year dream that united the hearts and minds of tribes all over the world. “This is the Indigenous,” said Marcos Terena, one of two brothers who organized the event. “Several peoples, several languages, several cultures. We look to the future. The future of the world, knowing all Indigenous peoples.” Canada will host the next World Indigenous Games in 2017.

Visit to read Katrina Montoya’s feature article on the first World Indigenous Games.


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