Native American Olympic Team Foundation
Creating joyful unity thru sports to heal
Mother Earth for all our Children
PRESS RELEASE Feb 22,2004
WI Governor Hails Tribal Youth at Birkie
wonderful seeing the Native Community opening the Birkebeiner
Event," said Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, as 30 splendid
Lac Courte Oreille youth danced, drummed, chanted and whirled
down Hayward's Main Street on February 19th. They were a highlight
of the Opening Ceremonies of the largest cross-country ski race
in North America.
The stunning royalty in beaded crowns, representing the Woodland
Tribes, then presented the Governor with a birchbark basket filled
with Wisconsin's yummiest tribal-made products - wild rice, wild
rice pancake mix, maple syrup and sausages, plus a Boys and Girls
Club Tee-shirt, thanks to Becky Taylor.
The next day, seven
Lac Courte Oreille middle schoolers were cheered across the finish
line by fans from 14 countries at the Junior Birkie next to the
Mount Telemark Inn. "The kids were presented with medals
and were so proud of themselves. They had real team spirit. I
heard one say, 'My mom is not going to believe this,'" said
coach Rachel Skime. "Thanks to all the snow, conditions were
also wonderful for the Short Race yesterday," she said.
Today, Ernie St. Germaine,
a former judge of the Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe Tribe, will compete
in his 31st Birkebieiner against 6,011 participants this year.
"There were eleven skiers who skied every one of the first
ten races. Tony called us Founders," said St Germaine. "Of
the eleven, just three of us have completed all 30 races,"
"Uncle Ernie" is excited about sharing his beloved sport
with other tribes, along with Birkie organizer Dennis Kruse, thanks
to the doors opened by Native American Olympic Team Foundation. NVF also helps
the tribes get the donated, recycled equipment and clothing collected
by the SnowSports Industry and local ski shops, in addition to
connecting tribes with local Olympians to light their fires.
Last year, NVF's co-chair,
Olympic skier Suzy "Chapstick" Chaffee, and the Ho-Chunk
Tribe's Michael Day, partnered with Kruse to bolster x-country
skiing in the Midwest, as part of the President's Healthier U.S.
Initiative on behalf of Native Americans. The kids had so much
fun competing in the Birkie that Day developed a course around
the lake of their Crockett's resort near the Dells.
This x-country breakthrough is timely in light of a ski outing
yesterday at Keystone, Colorado, for the U.S. Olympic staff, coached
by Olympians. Although Chaffee couldn't take part in the skiing,
(while on the comeback trail from a hip replacement at the Park-Nicollet
Methodist Hospital in nearby Minneapolis), she got a commitment
from Elaine Cheris, President of the Colorado Olympians, that
any American Indians who are reaching certain times in Olympic
sports will be invited to the Colorado Springs Olympic Training
"Ski programs like this are doing wonders to turn around
the 20-year-less-life-expectancy of the First Americans. At the
same time the good karma of sharing skiing with these Earth-guardians
- for example, inviting tribal youth to last year's Birkebeiner
for the first time - resulted in the event-saving snow,"
said Chaffee. The January, 2004, edition of SKIING magazine wrote
about NVF's tribal-related snow coincidences (some call miracles),
especially in Colorado, as an alternative to ski areas spending
$1.1 million on cloud seeding, which they now admit is "more
prayer-based than science."
"The People of
the Eagle," or North American tribes, are awesome cross-country
endurance runners. Thanks to a priest sharing some opportunities
with members of the First Nations in British Columbia, they won
Gold and Silver Olympic medals. "With opportunities our kids
can be champions," say US tribal leaders.
Contact: Native American Olympic Team Foundation 970-922-5406. firstname.lastname@example.org
For more info: www.nativevoices.org
Jim Doyle greets Woodland Dancers at Birkie Opening. --photo courtesy
of the American Birkebeiner