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ASU Tribal Nations Tour, ASU Athletics make a difference for Native American youth

June 15, 2016

Athletes and American Indian students from Arizona State University will travel to the Havasupai community June 15-18 as part of the annual ASU Tribal Nations Tour. This year’s tour will include wellness activities and cultural exchanges between the ASU Athletics department, Office of American Indian Initiatives at ASU and the Havasupai Tribe.

The Havasupai Tribe is located near the southwest corner of the Grand Canyon, approximately 275 miles north of Phoenix. Along with student-athletes, there will be students and staff from the ASU President’s Office of American Indian Initiatives. The group will hike 8 miles into the Supai Village located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. This will be office's fourth trip to Havasupai and the first with ASU Athletics.

The focus of the Tribal Nations Tour this year will be learning about Native communities, offering a sports clinic and providing community-service opportunities as the university and Havasupai tribe team up for wellness.

“The importance (of Tribal Nations Tour) is to provide academic guidance and preparation to American Indian students, families and communities and to provide encouragement to students that pursuing college is attainable and that they are capable,” said Annabell Bowen, director of the Office of American Indian Initiatives and Tribal Nations Tour administrator, about the significance of the tour program.

The Tribal Nations Tour has been an important outreach and recruiting tool for the Office of American Indian Initiatives since 2010. The office was created to serve as a liaison between Arizona State University and the 22 federally recognized Arizona tribal nations, concentrating on the recruitment, retention and graduation of American Indian/Alaska Native students at ASU.

“The one-on-one attention and direct engagement is crucial to setting a foundation of mutual trust and respect between ASU and Arizona tribal nations,” said Victor Begay, the academic community liaison director with the Educational Leadership and Innovation program at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. Begay has participated in the Tribal Nations Tour the past six years and helped coordinate the trip this year. 

Group ready to leave on bus for Havasupai.

This year’s group gets ready to hit the road. Photo by Sharon Tom/ASU

The ASU Athletics department has been a part of the program since 2012, when the ASU Student Athlete Advisory Committee decided to visit and work with all of the state’s 22 tribes by sponsoring a community-service project and a sports clinic each summer.

“Sun Devils Serve is one the cornerstones of the Sun Devil Athletics Way. Student-athletes are in a unique position to use their association with sport to give back to communities, and it is important that we provide as many opportunities to do this as possible. With that in mind, and with the university’s commitment to support Native American communities, this is a very important opportunity for Sun Devil Athletics and one that we are very excited and honored to be able to participate in,” said Bill Kennedy, associate athletic director at ASU.

Among the events scheduled during the tour is a youth sports clinic on June 16 with the ASU athletes and students from the Havasupai community at the Havasupai Elementary School followed by a dinner and cultural exchange between the community and ASU representatives.

On Friday, ASU athletes and Office of American Indian Initiatives staff and students will complete a community-service project for the Havasupai Tribe. In the afternoon, there will be a final pep rally for the students from the Havasupai community. 

“Going to the Havasupai community this year is going to be an incredible experience,” said Kennedy. “It is something that we have wanted to do since we started these trips four years ago, so to see it become a reality is very exciting. Each of our six previous trips have been a tremendous experience and (we) fully expect the same with this one. Anytime you get to go to a unique location like the village of Supai in the Grand Canyon, serve the local community, and at the same time learn about the culture of the local people it is a wonderful and memorable experience. This trip is one of the highlights of our year.”

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