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Heath Hotzler, Published June 16 2009

Letter urges North Dakota board to appoint Indian member

The vice president of a Canadian sports organization for indigenous athletes is urging the North Dakota High School Activities Association to appoint a Native American to its board of directors.

In a letter to board Executive Secretary Sherm Sylling dated April 22, Cara Currie-Hall of World Indigenous Nations Sport Inc. called the addition of a Native American “a very serious issue and it is a long overdue issue that you and the organization should address and act on.”

The NDHSAA board could discuss Currie-Hall’s letter at its meeting today in Minot, Sylling said. However, Sylling said the group may not get to the letter because it is not scheduled for board action.

Sylling said he put Currie-Hall’s letter on the agenda to inform the board of the correspondence.

A 2007 USA Today article on the hurdles Native Americans face in athletics called Currie-Hall the most influential woman in Native American sports.

She is the vice president and a board member of WIN Sport Inc., and a co-founder of the North American Indigenous Games.

Currie-Hall belongs to a group looking to bring the World Indigenous Nations Games to Winnipeg in August 2012. The World Indigenous Games is a worldwide Olympics-style event that will include traditional indigenous games and modern sports.

The NDHSAA’s constitution calls for three Class A representatives, four Class B representatives, a representative from the principal’s association, an athletic administrator, a school board representative and a representative from the Department of Public Instruction on the 11-member board.

Sylling said there has not been a Native American representative in his 10 years with the organization. Any member school can propose adding a Native American representative to the board, Sylling said.

Sylling said a mandate for a Native American NDHSAA board member would require a change in the organization’s bylaws.

Currie-Hall’s letter called for the board to “pass a special resolution and make a direct appointment” of a Native American person.

“As an advocate of indigenous peoples and sport, I would encourage you and the NDHSAA to give this very serious matter your immediate time and consideration,” Currie-Hall wrote. “The fact that an entire population group which you include in your process and system is not represented is not acceptable anywhere.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Native Americans made up 5.4 percent of North Dakota’s total population in 2007. The U.S. average is 1 percent.

Currie-Hall did not return a message seeking comment.

Letter from Cara Currie-Hall

Dear Mr. Sylling,

I am writing to your office to raise, again, a very important issue which we dialogued about a few years ago, and that is – the issue of the non-representation of Native American Peoples on the Governing Board of Directors of the North Dakota High School Activities Association.

Recall my initial comment to you was: “the NDHSAA has no representation in any governing capacity, by Native Americans”. This is a very serious issue and it is a long overdue issue that you and the organization should address and act on.

My proposal to you was that the NDSHAA Association, in the absence of organization bylaw that identified a board position to be occupied by a Native American person, that the Board could pass a special resolution and make a direct appointment. NDHSAA constitutional amendment could follow to reflect the same and other issues, ie: women on the Board. In fact, during one of our conversations in person I recommended Tex Hall as a qualified person. You stated that the person had to be active in the education field. To which I responded with the name of Dr. Wayne Trottier, the Superintendant of the Four Winds School. And, may I also add another highly qualified and capable Native American representative, Dr. Jean Hall, who is also an educator in Bismarck.

Mr. Sylling, I am the Vice President of an International Indigenous Sport Organization and work with Governments and Organizations around the world. As an advocate of indigenous peoples and sport, I would encourage you and the NDHSAA to give this very serious matter your immediate time and consideration. The fact that an entire population group which you include in your process and system is not represented is not acceptable anywhere.

Also, let me make clear, that I am NOT speaking of an “advisory” type body. I am proposing and requesting that the NDHSAA appoint a Native American person onto the Governing Board of Directors.

I look forward to your positive response.

With regards,

Cara Currie-Hall, Vice President

WIN Sport International


Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562.

Hotzler’s blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com