I'm going to play hockey."
"Son, you don't even know how to skate."
As he glides along the ice at the Arena, it's obvious Jesse Charging Hawk has learned a lot about hockey in the
10 years since that epiphany with his father.
Jesse keeps his head up, constantly moving on his skates as he pushes to make the play that could result in a goal.
"I like the assists, to make the play," says the 18-year-old from Fort Thompson.
"Of course, it's fun to score goals, too," he adds with a quick grin.
Charging Hawk smiles a lot when talking about hockey: "It's a cool game. I love it. It just grew on me."
His passion for the game is borne of hard work, learning from the ice up. He knew practically nothing about it
until lacing on skates in the second grade.
He worked hard off the ice, too: His father, Virgil Charging Hawk Jr., insisted on good grades as the tradeoff
for the costs of time and money involved in hockey.
"I said you get Cs or above in school or you don't play. I told him to stay with the game and get stronger
at it," says his father.
Jesse followed through, from Brookings as that dreaming grade-schooler to his senior year now at Crow Creek High
He plans to attend college next fall.
Jesse has learned a lot about life, too. There's a lot of time to think when your home rink is in Pierre, more
than an hour's drive away.
Time to think about making assists in real life, too.
He wants to pass on his love of the game -- and of learning -- to his people: Jesse may be unique in that respect
in South Dakota.
He thinks he is the only Native American teen playing ice hockey in the state.
That affords him special attention from classmates. "I know a lot are interested. Everybody (in school) asks
about it," he says.
That attention grew into a special day last weekend. When word got around that he was invited to participate in
the second annual Ice Bowl, his classmates voted to come along.
Two busloads arrive to watch him play. "He's a pretty cool guy," said Rosalyn Bear Runner as she leaned
over a railing an watched Jesse play.
Those classmates had never seen a game until watching Charging Hawk play last weekend in Sioux Falls.
At the tender age of 18, Charging Hawk is a teacher.
He worked hard in learning to skate well and to play a tough game well.
He's learned how to skate and score and, especially, to pass to teammates: That helping nature extends to a much
higher calling than games: Jesse is a pioneer "I know a lot are interested. Everybody (in school) asks about
it," he says.
When word got around that Jesse was invited to participate in the second annual Ice Bowl in Sioux Falls, his classmates
voted to come along.
Two busloads of students -- 51 in all -- arrived to watch him play in the showcase of seniors from around South
"He's a pretty cool guy," said Rosalyn Bear Runner as she leaned over a railing to watch Jesse in the
last of three all-star matches for boys and girls.
Jesse's team lost 7-1, but that didn't dampen the good time.
"I'm not a glory person," he says. "Win or lose, I just like to play. I'll never be sorry that I
started playing hockey."
Most of Jesse classmates had never seen a live game until sitting in the Arena.
Most students at Crow Creek are boarders, living there up to nine months a year, away from their homes around the
The school often sponsors field trips on weekends.
The students also watched the USHL game that night at the Arena, courtesy of the Stampede.
The day-long experience was good for students, said Jesse's mom, Donita Loudner.
"For most, Nintendo is how they know hockey," she says.
Loudner is proud that Jesse has come so far in hockey and in education: "He's a good guy. The most important
is that he's graduating."
She cites the commitment that it takes to continue playing hockey: "It's 60 miles each way to practice every
Unless the roads are too treacherous, Jesse always makes it. Sometimes he is forced to stay the night with friends
Jesse, who favors playing at right wing, has played for the Pierre Capitols since 1996.
The season before moving to Fort Thompson, he played on the state champion bantam hockey team from Brookings.
Pierre's season starts with a home game against Mitchell on Nov. 18.
Where ice hockey has been slow to attract Native Americans in South Dakota, the sport's history is strong with
a Native influence.
The game's roots are in Canada, where many believe it is a combination of sports -- many of which were played through
the centuries by Native Americans.
Stampede coach Bob Motzko says Henry Bouchard and Gary Sargent were two Native players from Minnesota who went
on to careers in the NHL.
"They were great players," Motzko says.
Bouchard played for the Minnesota North Stars and Sargent was best known for his years with the Los Angeles Kings.
Jesse Charging Hawk would love to play hockey in college and improve to a higher level.
He knows he is blessed with opportunity -- and a memorable name: "Everybody asks me, 'Is that your real name.'
It's a pretty good name for hockey."
Jesse says he'd return to Fort Thompson to teach skating and hockey after college.
"If I came back and there was enough interest, I'd love to coach," he says.
That could be an uphill battle.
Basketball is the king of sports at Crow Creek -- as it is in most small communities around the state.
Football is also big. Jesse played football because it's a fall sport. He gave up basketball at a young age to
play hockey because of overlapping seasons.
Jesse says it would help build interest if the reservation could get funds to build a skating rink.
The interest appears to be growing already at Crow Creek: "I've got a pond in back of my house. I'd like to
play," says 15-year-old Natasha Hislaw.
Hockey Hall of Fame
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