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ASU athletes, American Indian students to visit Navajo, Hopi tribal nations

blankets on a clothes line
June 20, 2013

Athletes and American Indian students from Arizona State University will travel to Navajo and Hopi lands this weekend to share in wellness activities and cultural exchanges. 

The “ASU Tribal Nations Tour” will focus on learning about native communities, offer a sport’s clinic and provide community service opportunities as the university and tribal nations team up for wellness.

“This is the first year that Athletics has been a part of it,” said Bill Kennedy, ASU associate athletic director. This tour came to fruition for ASU Athletics when the Student Athlete Advisory Committee explored community service projects and decided to dedicate their efforts to Arizona’s tribes, with an eventual goal of visiting and working with all of the state’s 22 tribes.

Along with student athletes, students and staff from the ASU President’s American Indian Initiatives Office and Educational Outreach and Student Services will be part of the tour.

“Our goal is to engage our students and the Arizona tribal communities in a meaningful experience through community service and cultural enrichment. Arizona is a culturally rich state. No two tribes are the same and it is more meaningful when we travel to their communities to learn first-hand about their cultures. Bringing our ASU athletes along is an added boost since so many tribes are focused on healthy lifestyles. Our students reflect what is possible,” said Diane Humetewa, ASU Special Advisor to the President for American Indian Affairs. “Since we have been traveling to tribal areas, college enrollment of Native Americans has increased.”

Among the events scheduled during the June 21-23 tour is a Navajo community service project through gardening and orchard work on Friday afternoon at Kerley Valley. ASU athletes, students and staff on the tour will also be able to take part in a traditional Navajo dinner with selections such as mutton, corn and fry bread.

A highlight of the tour is learning from a Navajo elder and medicine man during a fireside talk later that evening.

“Our students will be able to participate in a cultural exchange and learn more about the Native American culture,” Kennedy said.

Saturday’s itinerary features a youth sports clinic with ASU athletes and students at Tuba City High School. Young people from kindergarten to eighth grade will have the opportunity to join in the fun with activities such as football, basketball, track and softball.

Children from the community can also quiz the student athletes and students on what college experiences are like and what it’s like to be an athlete in college, and on Saturday, the group also will participate in a community clean-up at Moenkopi Day School. A Hopi dinner with selections such as hominy and piki bread will be served and a traditional elder will address the group. A Sun Devils 5K fun run and 3K walk takes place first thing on Sunday morning.

“We’re really excited about doing this,” Kennedy said. “Arizona is very diverse and this gives student athletes a view into another culture in the state. I think the combination of service and cultural exchanges will be very powerful for them.”