Final Four offers the opportunity to shine the spotlight on Native Americans

Jessie Stomski Seim is leading a full on-court press to raise awareness for Native American athletes at this year’s Final Four in Minneapolis.

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — Jessie Stomski Seim has always been comfortable on the basketball court.

“For me, basketball was a very powerful force,” she said.

Jessie played hoops at Tartan High School, before earning a scholarship to Wisconsin where she had a stellar career with the Badgers.

She was drafted in 2002 by Charlotte into the WNBA and later played basketball professionally overseas in Europe.

“It definitely put me on a path where I don’t think I would be serving tribal communities and doing things like that, but for basketball. It changed the course of my life,” said she declared.

Stomski Seim is a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation of Oklahoma. The Twin Cities resident currently works as general counsel for the Prairie Island Indian community.

Currently, she balances her full-time job with Native American outreach as an executive committee member of the local organizing committee for the Women’s Final Four.

“It’s not just about bouncing a basketball. It’s about playing, and we like to play, but it’s also about other opportunities, and there’s no reason why Indigenous children don’t have those opportunities,” said Stomski Seim.

The numbers are staggering according to Jessie – with less than half a percentage point of all NCAA Division 1, 2 and 3 athletes being Native American, with even fewer coaches.

She currently leads a number of initiatives ranging from a basketball clinic to traditional dance performances as part of the Council for the Advancement of Aboriginal Athletics to help bring change from the Final Four of this year in Minneapolis.

“We want to use it to make sure Indian communities in Minnesota are well represented and participate in this national tournament that’s in Minnesota,” she said.

Jessie and the IAAC worked with the NCAA and the Minnesota Local Organizing Committee to secure over 400 tickets for Indigenous youth and their families to attend the Final Four.

Jessie is determined to succeed in this endeavor and does her best.

“On a personal level, I do this for my father and my grandmother, as well as for all my loved ones who did not have this opportunity that I had. It is my responsibility to put on a good face,” said she declared.

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Nohemi M. Moore