Jacoby Ellsbury and Nike N7 Celebrate the Legend of the Dragonfly

New York Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury is the first person of Navajo descent to play in the Major League Baseball (MLB) organization. The Colorado River Indian Tribes member was only 8 years old when his mother told him about the dragonfly, a tale Jacoby’s grandfather had passed down to her. As he recalls it: “If you catch a dragonfly without killing it and rub it on the bottom of your feet, it will make you faster."

Ever since he heard the story, Ellsbury would catch and rub as many dragonflies on his feet as he could find while actively encouraging his brothers to do the same. He has used his speed to lead the American League in stolen bases in 2008 and 2009 as well as chasing down balls in center field. Ellsbury now tells the story of the dragonfly each summer to hundreds of young Native baseball players through his partnership with Nike at the N7 Jacoby Ellsbury Baseball Camp.

As one of Nike’s N7 ambassadors, Jacoby shares N7’s mission to encourage healthy lifestyles and access to sport in Indian Country. Jacoby and N7’s other ambassadors challenge themselves to excel in sports and healthy living and lift up their communities to do the same.


Bronson Koenig: Leader On and Off the Court

It takes one moment of opportunity, not to mention hard work and dedication, to begin achieving your lifelong dreams. Just ask University of Wisconsin point guard Bronson Koenig. Koenig, who is a member of the Ho- Chunk Nation, earned the chance to show his skills as a leader on the basketball court following an unfortunate injury of a teammate.

After the Badgers’ starting point guard suffered a broken foot, the team looked to sophomore Koenig to fill the leadership role that was suddenly missing. He has since lead the team to multiple wins, which has helped the Wisconsin Badgers stay at the top of the Big 10 conference. With only a handful of losses this season, Koenig and the Badgers’ men basketball team are hoping for a conference title as well as a bid to the ultimate NCAA March Madness tournament that is held annually.

The court isn’t the only place that Koenig has excelled. He has used the opportunity to learn more about his heritage and speak to youth about the importance of physical activity and education. Since his time at the University of Wisconsin, Koenig has taken classes that have not only taught him more about Native culture but has tested how much he already knew.


Native Youth Make Modern Music

Beats Lyrics Leaders (BLL) is a music mentorship program for youth based out of Portland, OR hosting a 16 month long apprenticeship program for 12 teens from the Yakama Nation this year. The program teaches skills for careers in the music industry, and will culminate with their recording and marketing an original album – a hybrid of contemporary and traditional music. A news article from the Oregonian this August includes remarks from J. Ross Parrelli, one of three program founders, on the need to direct more grant funding to Native Americans. Youth in the program are also speaking up, saying, "It's a chance to show other people that Native Americans can actually do stuff and that we are still here!" (See this quote from Kiani Picard, 14, from Warm Springs, OR and more at

Watch “Round Dance Dubstep”, a video recorded in the Music Mentors program with youth from the
Yakama Nation, and find more music with commentary from program participants in Beats Lyrics Leader’s
video gallery.


“KnowBullying” App to Stop Bullying

Did you know that talking with a child for a mere 15 minutes a day about issues related to bullying can help build self esteem and promote resilience? With nearly one-fifth of all students in grades 9 to 12 experiencing bullying, both on school property and through social media, it is important that youth leaders and parents alike become educated about what children are facing each day in hopes to one day stop bullying all together.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in collaboration with the Federal partnership, has created a smart phone app that provides information, conversation starters, and resources to address the needs of children in the age groups 3 to 6, 7 to 13, and teens. KnowBullying provides tips to help you start talking to the youth in your community about school, work, life, and bullying. These conversations help strengthen relationships with youth while building their feelings of connectedness with a dependable adult or mentor.


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

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