Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Nixya’awii Ball

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Nixya’awii Community School Football goes deeper than just a game.

They may be 0-7, they may be forced to play on a middle school’s field and the national anthem may have sounded a little scratchy over the PA system, but the Nixya’awii Golden Eagles Football team’s value cannot be measured traditionally.

The Nixya’awii Community School based off of the Umatilla Indian Reservation is a charter school that, according to their web site, “focuses on Native American Culture, infusing Native languages into daily school life, and serving the Tribal Community.”

Due to their size, they couple with Helix High School to form a football team of 20 players, with each school supplying ten. For Nixya’awii, those ten players represent a third of the male student body, while the whole school has only 56 students.

Last Saturday, Oct. 18, the Golden Eagles lost to the Arlington Honkers 56-26 in front of about 100 fans.

Since both teams were in Division 1A, each team only had eight players on offense and defense. As a result, Nixya’awii mostly lined up with five down lineman, one running back, one wide receiver, and the quarterback was in shotgun. Arlington, on the other hand, always lined up with five lineman, quarterback under-center, and two running backs in the I-formation.

Neither team could sustain a drive, instead relying on big play after big play.

The fans didn’t mind though and the atmosphere at the game was very relaxed. Several families had spread blankets and put up lawn chairs as if they had a picnic before the game started or were watching some event in a park. Nixya’awii Athletic Director Aaron Noisey lead a group of people that walked up and down the field, following the team as it drove down the field. After each play, Noisey announced the events of the previous play and the down and distance of the next to keep those present informed.

However, on-the-field success is not the only measure for any team, let alone the Golden Eagles. Statistics show that American Indian/Alaska Native students have the second highest dropout rate of any race/ethnicity. Athletic programs, like football, are part of the school’s attempt to beat that trend.

“Studies show that kids who participate in athletics have higher grades, especially at our school,” said Noisey. “It’s something that we want our kids to do, but there are high standards for it and we make sure our kids follow those standards out that have been outlined by our school board.”

The school reviews each student’s grades after each week to see if they are eligible to play in that week’s games. Considering that one-third of the male student body are on the team, those weekly checks can at least make sure that a good chunk of the student body is on track academically.

This policy goes for all sports at the school. Noisey estimated that 65-75 percent of the entire student body play at least one sport during the school year, so all those athletes have to be passing their classes so they can play.

Yet, it was obvious from the game that the team did not only mean something for those playing, but those watching as well. After the Golden Eagles took their first lead of the game, a little boy went right up to the players on the sideline and congratulated them. In general, the normal barrier between the fans and the players was forgotten as friends, parents and girlfriends talked to the players during the game. Whatever camaraderie a football team normally fosters amongst the players was shared with the other people there from the reservation.

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