Native Heritage Night Success for WNBA and UNITY

If you didn’t know, April 14, 2014 was a day that will be noted in history books. Shoni Schimmel became the highest drafted Native women in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WBNA). Since then, she has been revered as an inspiration to Native people, youth and adults alike. Her impact became clear August 5, 2014 when thousands of Native basketball fans from across the country traveled to Phoenix, AZ to watch Schimmel and the Atlanta Dream take on the Phoenix Mercury.

“It was a great feeling. It felt like a home game for us, especially being in Indian country,” said Schimmel, also known as “Showtime Shoni”, who is a member of the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Indians. The nearly sold out crowd came prepared with homemade signs and heartfelt cheers that became deafening when her name was announced at the start of the game.

Even though Schimmel was not able to give her best performance, the rookie MVP was able to answer questions of those who wanted to stay after the game. In fact, so many wanted to hear the wise words of the young woman that extra seats had to be opened to accommodate the crowd. Schimmel left the youth in the crowd who are on the pursuit of fulfilling their dreams a word of advice: “don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.”

Crowd goers were not the only group that benefited from the Native Heritage Night. The United National Tribal Youth, Inc. (UNITY) was another beneficiary from the outpour of support for Schimmel, as a portion of the ticket sales were donated to the organization. UNITY had the opportunity to share with fans traditional cultural songs and dances from the Ak-Chin Youth Council, Yavapai Apache Nation Youth Council, and Yellowbird Indian Dancers. In addition to the great heritage demonstrations, UNITY was also able to promote awareness about their youth programs through a booth on the concourse at the stadium and the recognition of tribal royalty and “25 under 25” Honorees during halftime. To learn more about the UNITY organization, visit

Photo credit: Indian Country Today Media Network