Native American Games kick off July 20 in Scottsdale

Former U.S. Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch will serve as honorary chair of the 2018 Fiesta Bowl Lori Piestewa National Native American Games July 20-22 at sites across the Valley.

Ms. Lynch and Native American basketball star Jude Schimmel, a member of the Umatilla tribe, will speak and meet attendees at the APS Health Fair and Opening Ceremonies at noon Friday, July 20 at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort, 7200 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale.

The largest competition of its kind, the 2018 Fiesta Bowl Lori Piestewa National Native American Games are expected to attract more than 3,000 athletes representing more than 50 tribes from across North America.

The games are named for Lori Piestewa, a U.S. Army soldier killed in Iraq in 2003. Ms. Piestewa, a Hopi from Tuba City, was the first Native American woman to die in combat while serving in the military. Ms. Lynch was wounded and captured in the ambush that resulted in Ms. Piestewa’s death. Ms. Lynch’s subsequent rescue became the subject of films and books.

“I am excited to serve as honorary chairman for the Fiesta Bowl Lori Piestewa National Native American Games,” said Ms. Lynch, who was awarded a Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Prisoner of War Medal by the U.S. Armed Forces.

“Lori was my best friend, and I am proud to see that her legacy lives on through the Piestewa Games. What a fitting tribute to a hero whose purpose in life was to bring people together.”

Ms. Schimmel, who grew up in Mission, Ore., has inspired a generation of Native American athletes. As a University of Louisville standout guard, Ms. Schimmel won the 2013 NCAA Elite 89 award for having the highest cumulative grade point average of any Women’s Final Four student-athlete. She has played professionally in Spain, wrote the memoir “Dreamcatcher,” and was featured in a Nike ad narrated by LeBron James. Her appearance is sponsored by Petti and Briones PLLC.

Native American athletes will compete in basketball, volleyball, youth baseball, softball, cross country and track and field. Registration and event information can be found on www.azsportsent.com.

The Piestewa Games had humble origins, with only a few hundred athletes competing in Tuba City and Flagstaff. The games have flourished under the management of the Arizona Sports and Entertainment Commission. An estimated 17,000 spectators, most from outside Arizona, will attend the games, providing a boost during a typically slow period in the Valley’s tourism economy.

“We’re grateful for the generous support of the Fiesta Bowl, APS, the Arizona Office of Tourism, the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority, Pepsi, Petti and Briones PLLC and The Thunderbirds,” ASEC Executive Director Nikki Balich said. “Thanks to those community-minded organizations and the ASEC volunteer army for ensuring the success of this national celebration of athletics and Native American culture.”

The APS Health Fair and Opening Ceremonies includes offerings of vital services to the Native American community; a children’s play area; carnival games; giveaways; and a complimentary lunch provided by The Thunderbirds.

The Scottsdale Independent is published monthly and mailed to 75,000 homes and businesses in Scottsdale.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.