What IS NDN All-Stars all about?

I’m Bill Black, and I am the “General Manager” of NDN All-Stars.  It is my honor and responsibility to select the members of the All Star team that is NDN All-Stars.

I am a descendent of the Okanogan Band of Indians, part of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.  My father made a point of raising my brother and me to be proud of our Native American heritage.  We frequently attended pow wows and many ceremonial activities as I was growing up. 

I am a family man.  I am married and have two kids who have been involved in their Native culture and athletics as they have grown up.  They proudly carry their Okanogan names, given to them by their grandfather.  They have been raised to have respect for their culture and those who have come before them.

In addition to encouraging my involvement with my Native culture, my parents also prompted me to explore many other activities growing up.  I was involved with Boy Scouts, music, leadership activities and athletics.  I played football and helped found the rowing program at my high school.  I played trombone in all of the bands at my high school, and recorded and toured with an elite jazz ensemble while in college.  Then I played music professionally for a few years in the greater Seattle area. 

With the encouragement of my parents – and to be honest, a LOT of their financial support, I attended the Art Institute of Seattle, and channeled my innate creativity into a career as a commercial artist, something that I still call my career to this day. 

All of these activities and experiences my parents encouraged, and allowed, me to take part in opened the world up to me and helped me see just how many possibilities there are for a once little kid from Nespelem Elementary School, a small town on the Colville Reservation.

Recently, I have taken on the role of High School Commercial Art Teacher at Omak High School, in Omak, WA.  I see and work with about 150 students on a daily basis, and about half of those kids are tribal members or decendents.  I interact with these young people every day.  I see the clothes they wear.  I hear them talking about their world and who the cool new athlete is…

Growing up in and around “Indian Country” I noticed something.  Of my “heroes” that I looked up to and wanted to emulate, there were none that were Native American.  Music idols, pro athletes, etc.  Other cultures and ethnic backgrounds were represented… My favorite athletes growing up were Muhammad Ali, Walter Payton, Dennis Johnson, Bruce Bochte and Steve Largent.  (I lived in the Seattle area so this list is a little biased…)

I thought “Why are there no ‘Indian guys’?  Were they not good enough?  Or did they hide their cultural background?  Black kids had Dr. J and Walter Payton and Dwight Gooden.  White kids had TONS of athletes to look up to…”

This thought stuck with me as I grew up.  Where are the Native athletes for us to look to?  There are numerous Indian heroes from history – but many of those are heroes from the struggles of war and invasion.  Chief Joseph, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse… the list is long.  Important people who played a major role in our history.  But what about recent history?  Are there no Native American heroes that were great outside of the context of war?

So, a few years ago I started writing down a list of Native American athletes that I could think of.  I came up with 7 or 8 athletes I knew were of Native American heritage.  Not many.  But I KNEW there had to be more.

So I decided to actually do some research and not trust my “off the top of your head” memory.

I have found – and am still finding – a LOT more than 7 or 8 Native American athletes who accomplished some GREAT THINGS in their sports!  From Baseball and basketball and football to other sports like golf, figure skating and judo!  Olympic gold medalists, championship winners, MVP candidates… wow!  The list continues to grow…

So, I decided to do something with this newly discovered (or reclaimed) native pride – and I created NDN All-Stars.  (Yep – that is pronounced “In-Dee-An”)  I wanted to create a way to promote and bring back some of the great athletes that “Indian Country” has generated so that kids today can remember – or even more to the point – discover them!  And hold them up as role models!

With all that said, I thank you for your interest in NDN All-Stars, and in keeping these great Native American All-Stars in our memory.