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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


July 28, 2001 - Issue 41


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Breaking More than Basketball Stereotypes


 by C. Jemal Horton Indy Star-July 17, 2001

In a matter of years, she has become the anti-stereotype. And not just because she's a great girls high school basketball player and an American Indian.

Believe it or not, Kayla Lambert will tell you, there have been plenty of good female ballplayers on the Fort Peck (Mont.) Indian Reservation, where she lives.

Lambert merely is the only one to make it to the Nike girls basketball camp at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

"I was nervous out there at first," Lambert, a 5-8 point guard, said Monday afternoon, "but it's fun going against all this competition."

Yes, she's had fun these three days, but she has played not with the satisfaction of knowing she is the first American Indian to compete here, but with the hope that she won't be the last.

She'll get a scholarship, considering she should break her state's scoring record of 2,763 points -- set by a boy -- early next season. She averaged 37.1 points as a junior and 42.2 as a sophomore, and she's looking forward to leaving for college, perhaps the University of Washington.

Which gets us back to that stereotype thing.

"A lot of people say Indians don't want to leave the reservation, that there is pressure for Indians to stay on the reservation to help their community," Lambert said.

"Well, no. On my reservation, they support me. They don't look at me that way. It's cool with everybody."

If she's fortunate, there even are some on the reservation who realize that, by leaving, Lambert could help just as much.

A member of the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes, Lambert is considered the beacon of hope by many at Fort Peck. If she can do it, they can. They all should.

"Kids come to our house all the time just to see her," said Lambert's mother, Desiree. "They need that person they can identify with. We can watch and see the black people and the Hispanics (have heroes), and we don't have a Native American whatsoever that our kids can identify with. Identity is very important.

"What Kayla has done, just in the state of Montana, is great. She gets letters in the mail from all over the country thanking her for representing Native Americans so well."

Lambert's mother is educational director for the Assiniboine Tribe. Her father, Bernard, is superintendent of schools and her coach. But after her parents got their degrees, they returned to the reservation and gave back. Which is great.

But their daughter has a gift they never had: basketball. She can touch the people at Fort Peck, as well as American Indians everywhere. Eventually, though, she can touch the world. So she has to leave. If only to explore the possibilities.

"It's a real situation where there's so many barriers that have to be overcome, in terms of being a Native American, especially in athletics," Bernard Lambert said. "I think Kayla keeps that in the back of her mind. She's definitely aware of who she is. She knows what Native Americans have gone through.

"I don't like to use the term 'failure,' but she knows there are a lot of Native athletes that have had that talent but haven't gone out and fulfilled it. She wants to go and fulfill her talent and dreams. And we support her."

Kayla's parents drove two days to get her here. They want her to go away to college. They don't even care about her five tattoos. They are cool parents.

And that truly is going against the stereotype.

 Maps by Travel

Fort Peck
The Fort Peck Reservation is home to two seperate Indian nations, each composed of numerous bands and divisions. The Sioux divisions of Sisseton/Wahpetons, the Yantonais, and the Teton Hunkpapa are all represented. The Assiniboine bands of Canoe Paddler and Red Bottom are represented. The reservation is located in the extreme northeast corner of Montana, on the north side of the Missouri River. The Reservation is 110 miles long and 40 miles wide

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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