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Setting Standards: Dakotah Poitra, Native American Heritage Day

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

Dakotah Poitra is a Native American of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians tribe. She joined Her Next Play in February 2020 as a Digital Media Specialist. Poitra works as the Athletics Administration Graduate Assistant at North Central College, where she is receiving her master's in organizational leadership. In addition to her role at the college, Poitra works with Chi Alpha Sigma, a non-profit with the mission to provide outstanding student-athletes with an opportunity to become connected within a fraternal association that aligns their educational and athletic successes for a lifetime. She is a 2019 graduate from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls where she was a volleyball student-athlete.

How did you first become interested in the sport of volleyball?

I have always looked up to my big sister growing up and still today. She was the reason I fell in love with volleyball. I wanted to be just like her. She has always played a big role in my development as a player by being my first pepper partner, coach, and cheerleader in the stands.

What is your favorite memory as a volleyball player?

My favorite memory as a volleyball player would be the big, celebration moments. I never held on tight to the memory of what led up to the celebration, but rather the celebration itself. It’s a moment where you and your teammates are giving and receiving genuine energy toward each other. It’s an incredible experience every time and I miss it very much.

Why is it important for us to elevate indigenous womxn voices in sports?

It’s important to elevate indigenous womxn voices in sports because I think we are few and far between.

Representation of indigenous womxn in sports is important as it empowers indigenous youth to break barriers and proudly represent their native heritage and community.

Have you ever been judged on your appearance rather than your ability?

I grew up in a small, predominately white community and I would say the majority of the towns within my conference knew that I was Native American. I remember a specific moment at an away volleyball game in high school. In volleyball the opponents fan section typically attempts to mock the other team’s players when they step back to serve to distract them.

When I stepped back to serve, the opposing team’s fan section started doing a Native war call. I didn’t show that I was phased by it physically (I actually aced their team), but I definitely was taken aback when I had time to reflect after the game.

It was interesting how they mocked my heritage and used it against me. I was happy to see that those fans got kicked out of the gym by the Athletic Director.

What does it mean to you to "set standards" in sports?

To “set standards” in sports means breaking down barriers for all womxn in sports. Most often the current standards are in place because no one thought to challenge them. Why do things need to be done how they have always been done?

Setting the standards is about continual assessment to know who is being served and excluded, and then making an inclusive change.

You recently stated, "I lead because people need to see and hear native womxn. Inclusion and representation of indigenous womxn matters." Did you as a young athlete see yourself represented in sports?

As a young athlete the only representation I saw of other indigenous athletes was when I visited my reservation (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Reservation in North Dakota). A lot of my cousins played sports in high school and I always enjoyed watching them play and hearing about their accomplishments.

But once I returned home, that representation disappeared. It's important for young indigenous girls to see themselves within the sports world so they know that there is a place for them as well.

What does Native American Heritage Day mean to you?

Native American Heritage Day to me means appreciating the generations before us and empowering those after us.

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