The Mesa Community College (MCC) American Indian Institute (AII) will host the 6th Annual American Indian Recognition Day Basketball Game in December. The event will recognize native athletes and debut new team jerseys donated by Nike.
The American Indian Institute, an organization that provides services and support to Native American students at MCC, created the Game to recognize its Native college athletes for the contributions to the school. It also is a way to bring other Native American communities together to promote a positive environment for other Indigenous students and youth.
Also at the Game will be the unveiling of the new team jerseys which will be donated by the Nike N7 division, a program that provides access to Nike products directly to Native American tribes to support health promotion.
During the gathering athletes will compete in a fun basketball match-up between the Men and Women basketball teams of Phoenix College (PC) and MCC, and a Pow-wow dance will be part of halftime show. Among those present at the Game will be ambassadors from various Arizona Tribes. The Aii leaders say they want to involve as many Indigenous communities to make the public more aware of the Native presence on campus.
Sam Stevens is the assistant coach of the MCC Women’s Basketball team and Aii. Advisor. He said the college is excited to have more Native athletes on the team this year.
“This year we are actually lucky,” Stevens said, “We’re going to showcase some jerseys that Nike N7 has designed for us.”
Organizers say one of many goals for the Recognition Game is to promote MCC as a Native friendly institution and to influence Native children to stay away from negative influences like being involved with gangs or drugs.
Mariah Charley is an office assistant for the Aii and has helped in the planning process of previous Recognition Games. She recalls her experience with past Recognition Games as always being positive.
“It’s just overall like a really good experience,” Charley said, “It’s just awesome to know that were all there to pay recognition to not only American Indians, ourselves, our families, but more so to our elders and our ancestors to pay recognition to them.”
The new team jerseys will be worn on December 1st against the basketball teams from PC. The Women’s Basketball Team will play at 2 p.m. and the Men’s Basketball Team will play at 4 p.m. in the Theo Heap Gym at MCC.
Jose Batopis III is a journalism student at Mesa Community College.