Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Native Billy Mills’ Gold Medal

In 1964, Billy Mills, Oglala Lakota (Sioux), earned a gold medal in the 10k race at the 1964 Olympics. This year, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of his well-deserved win. Billy had his fair share of misfortune as a child, becoming an orphan at only 12 years old, but he chose to stay positive and dedicated his life to running. He began setting records in high school and continued to pursue his passion at the University of Kansas where he received a track scholarship. After graduating, he respectfully served as an Officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.

At the time of Billy’s Olympic win, he set a world record of 28 minutes, 24.4 seconds and is still the only American to ever win a gold medal in the 10k event. It took Billy four years of strategic planning and training to win that gold. Just as Lakota culture taught him, Billy wanted to give back to the family and friends who had supported him on his long journey to the gold, so he assisted the founding of Running Strong for American Indian Youth. He is now the National Spokesperson for Running Strong and travels more than 300 days out of the year to encourage Native youth to live healthy lives and keep their heritage pride strong.

There have been several events throughout 2014 to celebrate Billy’s 10k Gold Medal and there is one more to go! The last event of the year will be a half marathon held on September 14, 2014 in Santa Fe, NM. This event is recognized as the Santa Fe Thunder Half Marathon and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Running Strong. Enrolled tribal members can pay their entry fee at half price so if you’d like to participate, simply visit

Photo: Billy Mills crosses the finish line, winning the gold medal at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
Photo credit: Associated Press/The New York Times


President Obama’s message to Indian Country

Native youth are standing up and making their voices heard every day. But today, we’re calling attention to youth from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation who made their voices heard to a special party of two: the President and First Lady.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama made his first presidential trip to an reservation. He visited the North Dakota tribe to attend their annual Flag Day Powwow where dozens of traditional dancers greeted the President and First Lady Michelle Obama. But earlier that day, the two spent some time talking with a small group of the tribe’s youth. Gathered at the Cannon Ball Grade School, the Obamas listened as Native youth told them about the challenges of life on the reservation and the challenges that come with identifying as both Native and American. But the President’s biggest takeaway was from something the youth never had to say. That Native youth are resilient.

“And you should be proud of [your young people]—because they’ve overcome a lot, but they’re strong and they’re still standing and they’re moving forward. And they’re all proud of their culture,” Obama said during an address he gave later that day to a crowd of 1,800 powwow attendees.


Brothers from the Onondaga Nation become first Natives to win Tewaaraton Award

Boys & Girls Clubs of Indian Country congratulates the Thompson brothers for making lacrosse history last month. Among five finalists, Lyle and Miles both took home the Tewaaraton Award, college lacrosse's highest honor given to the best player in the country, for their performances at University at Albany-SUNY in New York. The award has never been presented to two players. It has also never been awarded to a Native player, until this year. Members of the Onondaga Nation, Lyle and Miles were the first Native players to receive this honor, the name for which comes from the Mohawk language. Lyle and Miles have been setting records their entire lacrosse careers and have played together most of their life. Their brotherly bond has translated to sweeping successes on the field like becoming the first teammates in Division I history to record 100-point seasons at the same time. Their hard work has not only earned them the Tewaaraton Award but helped them to advance the rankings and reputation of their team. To learn more about Lyle and Miles and their inspiring story, go to

Photo: The Tewaaraton had never had shared winners before Thursday night. But the committee voted unanimously to give the award to both Lyle Thompson (left) and Miles Thompson, who both had record-breaking seasons.
Credit: David Vatz/University of Albany Athletics


The Voices of Cherokee Youth

The voices of Cherokee youth are being heard loud and clear thanks to the Cherokee Youth in Radio program! With grant funding from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, youth of Native American heritage, ages 8 to 16, are gaining valuable experience through producing radio programs! In a room at the Cherokee Youth Center in North Carolina, a studio was constructed with three microphones and a table length sound board. Foam lines the walls in order to block the sound from the other after-school activities that take place.

Through this program, teens are finding their voice to positively influence their peers. Public service announcements are one avenue that youth are using to talk about issues such as drug and alcohol abuse. In 2012, program participants won an award from the television network, Nickelodeon, about rising above the influence of drugs by writing, scripting, and editing for their radio show.

Currently, 12 Native youth work together to produce local news broadcasts, oral plays, and stories of Cherokee Legends. “Stories of Mountain Folk” is the most recent project at the Center. The teens record traditional Cherokee stories that have been passed down through the generations to be broadcasted weekly. Elders have even been known to help with the project! Through connecting with Elders and broadcasting the traditional stories, teens are building excitement about their culture and feel a stronger connection to their community.
Keep up the great work!


Shoni Schimmel Drafted to the WNBA

On Monday, April 14, 2014 history was made as Shoni Schimmel became the highest drafted Native woman ever in the 2014 Woman’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) Draft. Shoni, picked up in the eight spot of the first round by the Atlanta Dream, is also now the third Native woman to enter the WNBA, following Tahnee Robinson and Angel Goodrich.

Shoni and her younger sister Jude have gained a huge following as star players on the University of Louisville women’s basketball team. The sisters hail from the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla Reservation in Oregon and helped the lead Louisville Cardinals to an impressive 35-5 record in the 2013-2014 season. Their 2014 NCAA tournament run was cut short, losing to the University of Maryland Terrapins in the Elite Eight. In her last year as a Cardinal, Shoni had great season statistics including scoring an average of 17.1 points per game and leading the team with 3.8 assists per game. She has also made school history, currently ranking second in all time points scored and first in 3-pointers.

Shoni joins the ranks of the most talented female basketball players in the country. When asked about how she felt about being drafted she said, “It’s definitely a blessing to be able to be in the WNBA…I definitely think I can bring a little flavor to the league.” Be sure to check out Shoni on the court this fall in Atlanta. Congratulations, Shoni!

Photo: Jessica Hill/AP

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