Thesis

Queen of the court: the gendered sports experiences of Yakama girls

Native people have used sports for centuries to build community and resist colonialism. This research was conducted using qualitative in-depth interviews with ten girls who attend the Y akama Nation Tribal School. The purpose of the research was to investigate the meaning of sports to Native female athletes. The study sought to center the girls' lives and words throughout the research process. Based on data collected, it was found that Native American girls, who perhaps have the least powerful social positions on the reservation, are able to transform oppressive gender, race, and class constructs that are imposed on them. They are overcoming the gender constructs that colonialism has laid down on traditional culture, they overcome the racism that exists in the region, and they are able to resist the oppression of the widespread poverty on the reservation. Sports provide important social and material opportunities for the young athletes. Through sports involvement, the girls are connected with their families and traditional culture. They are also able to use sports to determine their own futures and social roles. The role of athlete is something they choose. Finally, sports allow a space for the girls to be publicly important as a group. It is a way that the young females can have a place where they belong, an important accomplishment given the oppressive race, class, and gender constructs they encounter in their lives.

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