Everyone knows the stories of the famous Native athletes of yesteryear such as Jim Thorpe (Sac and Fox) and Billy Mills (Oglala Lakota) but it’s always disappointing that we don't see more modern-day Native sporting heroes come to the fore. However, there are some that overcome the hurdles put before them in order to become superstars. Here are just some of the ones you should be following if you weren’t already.
The Thompson Family (Lacrosse)
It’s no surprise that Lacrosse is the one sport where Native athletes not only shine but generally lead the way for others to follow, and at the forefront of that are the Thompson family (Onondaga). Brothers Lyle and Miles broke the mold by bucking the trend of signing for Syracuse, which has led to Native youngsters now branching out further and wider into the college leagues, thus widening the scope for future Native players to find scholarship opportunities.
Ellsbury and Glover (Baseball)
Native Americans have always had a fractured relationship with the MLB with everything from franchise naming issues to fan chants, whose origins come from a place of prejudice, making the two sides lock horns. Although both on their way out of the sport now, Koda Glover and Jacoby Ellsbury both did a lot to try and build bridges, even becoming ambassadors for the N7 Project, which will hopefully increase the likelihood of more Native players featuring in upcoming MLB Futures odds line-ups.
Spencer O'Brien (Snowboarding)
One of the most decorated female snowboarders of all time, Spencer O’Brien is proud of her Haida and Kwakwaka’wakw roots. Despite suffering from rheumatoid arthritis for much of her career, O’Brien became world champion in 2013 and is also the owner of five Winter X Games medals. When she’s not competing, she also features prominently in the biggest snowboard magazines and movies around, jetting off to wherever the snow is best.
Jordan Nolan (Hockey)
When it comes to role models, Jordan Nolan (Garden River) along with his brother and father are well placed to show Native youth how they can achieve their dreams while keeping in touch with their ancestry and culture. The three-time Stanley Cup winning centre is revered not only for what he has achieved on the ice, but off it as well, helping fund and develop Nolan's First Nations Hockey School. Just like many of the other names on this list he too is part of Nike’s N7 project as he continues to inspire the sporting heroes of tomorrow.