It is not every day an American Indian enters the WNBA, the women’s professional basketball league, as Shoni Schimmel did this past Monday. As a matter of fact, no American Indian woman has ever been drafted in the first round of the WBNA as Shoni was when the Atlanta Dream selected her. Schimmel represents what is right with American Indian youth across Indian country.
Newest Atlanta Dream Shoni Schimmel – 8th pick in First Round of 2914 WNBA Draft
So often the media concentrates on the deplorable statistics associated with Native youth, such as the large number of high school dropouts or the disproportionate high suicide rates among Native youth, which are indicative of an oppressed people.
While these stories are important to bring to the public’s attention in hopes Native youth’s lives can be improved, it is equally important to celebrate success stories such as Shoni Schimmel’s.
She is after all is tribal citizen of the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla, based in Pendleton, Oregon. She lived her early years in Mission, Oregon on the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
Even on the reservation, she had a dream—to play in the WNBA.
During her high school years, her parents moved her and her siblings to Portland, Oregon’s largest city, where she turned her “rez ball” basketball style into an integrated style that made her into one of the best women basketball players in America.
Shoni and her family gained national exposure on the TLC channel in 2011 with the documentary film, “Off the Rez,” which chronicled Shoni’s junior and senior high school years playing basketball.
Once away from the reservation, she caught the eye of the Louisville Cardinals basketball program and was recruited to play there. She accepted their scholarship and decided to play there. At Louisville, she became the university’s second all-time scorer. During her collegiate career, she came within five three-pointers of becoming the all-time three-point scorers in the NCAA.
While at Louisville, she was joined by her sister, Jude, who will be senior next season.
The two led Louisville to the NCAA national championship last April, becoming the only American Indians to play in a Division-One NCAA national basketball game.
So, with the enthusiasm and Native pride the Umatilla Schimmel sisters created while at Louisville, undoubtedly Shoni will attract American Indians to WNBA games as the visiting Atlanta Dreams play in cities close to Indian country.
After Monday night’s draft, Shoni posted this message on Instagram:
“Dream Big!!! It’s been my dream since day one to be able to play in the WNBA and it’s all falling into place. Dreams really do come true!! Just have to believe!!!”
Shoni’s dream is coming true. She is a great inspiration to Indian country and represents what is right with Native youth.
She is living proof dreams can come true and she makes Indian country proud.