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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


April 5, 2003 - Issue 84


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CHIEFS - The Film

by Independent Lens
credits : photo by Mark Junge

Basketball  Chiefs in ActionFor Wind River Indian High School’s basketball team and their community, winning the state championship means everything. Will basketball be their passport to a brighter future?

Every November for the last 18 years, Al Redman has unlocked the cage for Wyoming Indian High School's first day of boys' basketball practice. And every year so far, he's found a way to win. The silver-haired Redman has chalked up an impressive record as head coach of the powerhouse Chiefs, including five state championships and a record 50-game winning streak. But it has been eight years since the Chiefs have won a state title, a long time for a team that is the focal point for the community of Wind River, Wyoming.

For senior Beaver C'Bearing, who grew up dreaming of state victory, this year is his last chance. In time, Beaver and his teammates will be part of the audience, and will have to reconsider their priorities, but for the moment, the question is, what will happen during his senior year?

Wind River Indian Reservation (where the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone were confined by the U.S. government on 3,500 square miles of central Wyoming) is hardly an environment conducive to success. Poverty, alcoholism, racism and youth suicide are just a few of the challenges the cultures face. But despite all of this - or perhaps because of it - basketball is played on the rez and played very well.

Why are the Chiefs so good? Because they grow up playing together from the time they can walk? Because they come from a warrior tradition? Because they are naturally gifted athletes? Because they play for a school built as an alternative to the non-Indian schools they compete against? Because they attend sweat lodges and observe other tribal traditions together? The film CHIEFS explores the complex factors that contribute to playing an incredible game of basketball.

Web site highlights include:

The Rez
Learn the history of the Wind River reservation, since its establishment for the Shoshone people in 1863 to the present. Understand why low incomes, high unemployment rates and little opportunity are chronic problems on this reservation.

Where Are They Now?
In 2003 the Chiefs played another outstanding season of basketball, placing third in the state championships. Find out what’s happened to members of the CHIEFS team since shooting finished in October 2001.

The Film
Find out if Beaver C'Bearing and his teammates can triumph as state champions - and what it means to grow up Native American today. Explore complex factors on and off the reservation that contribute to an incredible game of basketball. Read staggering statistics on Native American athletics.

Filmmaker Q & A
Filmmaker Daniel Junge discusses his subjects' reactions to the film, "getting the story," and what keeps him inspired and motivated.

Learn More
Get links to Web sites, book and articles on various Native American subjects, including athletics, the Wind River reservation, education, history and other general interest topics.

We want to hear from you! Get involved in a discussion of the program and Native American athletics.

Native American Athletics

Even though American Indians have excelled in high school sports, they are less recognized in athletics that most other ethnic groups in the United States. Some stats to consider:

  • Only 310 American Indians were among the 70,856 college athletes in Division I who received athletic aid in the 1988-99 school year.
  • While American Indians make up about one percent of the country's population, they account for only four-tenths of a percent of the scholarship athletes at the major college level.
  • According to the NCAA, the estimated probability of men's high school basketball players who make it to the professional level is .003 percent.

Source: Roberts, Selena. "In the Shadows: Off-Field Hurdles Stymie Indian Athletes," New York Times, June 17, 2001.

Hosted by Angela Bassett, this anthology series showcases powerful and innovative independent programming. INDEPENDENT LENS is broadcast on PBS stations. Check local listings at

Copies of the video are available by contacting:

Lifesize Entertainment and Releasing
Phone: 973-884-4884
Fax: 973-428-9950

Videos of CHIEFS for educational use are available from:
Active Parenting Publishers, Inc.
Phone: 800-825-0060 or 800-235-7755
Fax: 770-429-0334

Wind River Indian Reservation, Wyoming Map

Maps by Travel

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.

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