such a rich history, it seems odd for an athletic program to face
such a challenge to rebuild.
is the case with the Chemawa Indian School football team.
the Braves are playing their first varsity schedule in five years.
Last year, the team finished an independent junior varsity schedule
with a 2-4 record. The team didn't score a touchdown until
the third game.
against Waldport, Chemawa lost 53-8.
school is far removed from its past.
was playing football in Salem before Salem High School (now North
Salem) had even opened its doors.
High School opened in 1906, 21 years after Chemawa. And from 1897
to 1905, Chemawa's football team played the University of Oregon
opponent for the current Chemawa football team is the Woodburn junior
varsity team. Chemawa will play five varsity games and three JV
games this season. Next year, the Braves will play in the Tri River
of these kids have never even played football before," Chemawa
head coach Rick Waddell said. "But every time we step on the
field we're having successes."
has changed in football since Chemawa played the University of Oregon,
obviously. And Chemawa has a long way to go to regain the on-field
respectability it once had during the days it played Oregon.
gets discouraging sometimes," Waddell said. "You're
battling something new every day."
is a boarding school that brings in Native American students from
around the country, most of whom have had problems in more traditional
school environments. For a football team a less stable student body
can produce problems from participation numbers to eligibility issues.
best athlete in the school we sent home," Waddell said. "We
work with the kids who want to be here. I guess I'm old school
starting teaching at the school in 1997, a year in which just nine
players came out and no team was formed. But this year the outlook
is positive. At a recent no-pads practice in preparation for the
Woodburn game, Waddell counted 34 players.
don't even have that much equipment," he said.
is trying to resurrect a fall sports camp in the weeks before school
school starts several weeks later than most schools in the state.
And when the students arrive, it's only then that coaches know
how many and who comes out for the team.
first game is usually our opponents' second or third,"
like senior quarterback John Rides Horse give Waddell optimism.
Rides Horse, who is from Park City, Mont., has been with the team
for three years.
natural athlete also runs cross country, plays basketball in the
winter, runs track and plays baseball in the spring.
just starting to come together as a team," Rides Horse said.
"It takes awhile for that because we're all from different
Horse expected seven players from last year's team to return
but only three did.
jumping to varsity all of a sudden with junior varsity players,"
he said. "It's hard to keep a good team."
Chemawa is aiming for isn't measured solely by on-field success.
Waddell hopes the experience of playing a sport teaches students
work ethic, social skills and teamwork.
brought several players to the Oregon football game Saturday against
Michigan. He said the experience has opened their eyes to new goals
is the first time a lot of these guys have even been part of a team,"
Waddell said. "It's starting to get better. It's
a different attitude. Kids are showing up every day, getting here
offensive lineman Derek Muniz, from the Umatilla tribe in Eastern
Oregon where he attended Pilot Rock High School, is in his first
year at the school. He was one of the students who went to the Oregon
game with Waddell.
was great," Muniz said.
playing on the football team has helped him to get good grades and
stay out of trouble.
keeps me motivated," he said.
Horse said players on the team this year have a pride that hasn't
existed in the past.
if we're behind 40 points we're still having fun,"
said Rides Horse, who hopes to attend the University of Oregon next
year. "Just as long as we get to play the game."
is cautious about expectations for the team.
going to be a slow process," he said. "Change is change,
and it's going to take a little longer here than it would in
the rest of the world."