MOUNT PLEASANT -- The 21st annual Michigan Indian Family Olympics took place at Bennett Track on the campus of Central Michigan University on Friday.
Among the volunteers helping put on the event were several members of CMU’s athletics department, including administrators, members of coaching staffs and student-athletes. It marked the fifth consecutive year Central has hosted the event.
The annual gathering for the tribal organizations from across the state of Michigan promotes health and wellness through a family-friendly day of physical activity, including track and field events and other competitions designed for all ages. The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, which created the event in 1987, is the unofficial host of the competition.
“We had representatives from all 12 federally recognized tribes and probably the best turnout we’ve ever had,” said Joseph Sowmick, public relations director for the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. “It’s a great chance to bring our elders and children together in an effort to increase wellness."
CMU athletics has been a longtime partner with the tribe and this event only furthers that relationship.
“This partnership is extremely important not only to our athletics department, but to the entire university,” said Athletics Director Dave Heeke. “It’s a privilege and an honor to have this event held at our facilities and on our campus.”
Many student-athletes, including several men’s basketball players, helped out with several events during the day’s activities.
“It’s so important to have our athletes involved, acting as role models for the young tribe members,” Heeke said. “This gives them the chance to interact with the athletes on a personal level and allows them to become part of this amazing partnership.”
In addition to joining several tribes from across the state, it’s also an opportunity for several of the tribal members to return to a place they once called home.
“Many of our tribal members are CMU alums,” Sowmick said. “To look at the effort that both the tribes and Central Michigan have put forth to make this event possible speaks well toward the outreach on both sides. The facilities are fantastic and the help from CMU athletics, as well as President Rao and Chief Fred Cantu working together, makes this a special day. It’s one thing to talk about this great partnership, but today we can show it.”
CMU Associate Athletics Director Nick Williams agrees.
“It’s a great partnership and it’s a great example of our continued partnership to better our community,” he said. “It’s a great chance for us to work together and strengthen the bond between the tribes and our university.”