Basketball family offers inspiration: Schimmel sisters talk of Native pride at Red Lake
By Molly Miron
Special to the Pioneer
RED LAKE — Young Red Lake members practiced their three-pointers Saturday morning in the Red Lake High School gym as they awaited the arrival of Shoni and Jude Schimmel and their parents.
The Schimmel sisters are known throughout Indian Country and beyond as basketball stars who helped the University of Louisville Lady Cardinals score the 82-81 upset victory over the Baylor Lady Bears last March in the Division I NCAA Final Four before losing to UConn in the finals.
Shoni, 21, and a senior at Louisville, is the first enrolled member of Oregon’s Umatilla Tribe to win a college basketball scholarship. Jude, 19 a sophomore, followed her older sister to college and basketball fame.
Red Lake Chairman Floyd Jourdain Jr. said the Schimmels’ visit Saturday came out of a connection with Nelson Hernandez, Utah State assistant basketball coach, who has helped guide the annual Red Lake Youth Conference and Warrior Challenge. The conference is an effort to inspire Red Lake students to finish high school and look toward a college career.
Hernandez, a close friend of the Schimmel family and producer of the "Off the Rez" documentary about Shoni, arranged for the Schimmels to make their presentations at Red Lake on Saturday. The family members held a youth presentation Saturday morning and a community presentation during the evening.
"Just to show the young people you can go beyond high school ... if you don’t abandon your dreams," Jourdain said.
Shoni and Jude’s parents, Rich and Ceci, also described their family life on the reservation and their strategies they use to spur their eight children to achieve their goals.
"Where we came from is no different from where you’re at," said Rich. "Growing up on the rez, there’s nothing wrong with that."
Not only did the Cardinals earn a berth in the Final Four, Rich said they had to work harder than Baylor to reach that opportunity. The same goes for pursuing education, he said.
"It’s not if I graduate from high school; it’s when I graduate from high school," he said. "What are you doing to prepare yourself for college. As young people, have a goal. Have a plan. Know it’s going to be hard work."
Ceci said she sees great potential in young American Indians to lead in the future. She urged young Red Lake members to go out into the world, get an education and bring their skills back home to the reservation. "We love being Native American. We’re so proud," she said.
Shoni, who described her dream as playing professional women’s basketball (maybe with the Minnesota Lynx), said she and her sister have made people more aware of the prowess of Indians. Now, she said, it’s time for other young people to go even farther. "We’ve kind of paved the way for the younger kids," she said. "You have to pave the path for the next generation. Don’t be as good as Shoni and Jude. Be better."
Shoni is a communications major at Louisville.
Jude, a sociology major, echoed the emphasis on education, but also urged her listeners to be resilient and work hard. "There’s always going to be the ups and downs. If there’s something negative, try to find something positive in it," she said.
Before the audience members lined up for autographs, Rich offered his final piece of advice: "Don’t give up. Believe in yourself. It goes way beyond basketball."