Ho-Chunk athletes recognized at Indigenous Games banquet

By Ken Luchterhand

It was a celebration of trials and triumphs, successes and defeats, but mostly it was about the gathering of Ho-Chunk athletes who competed on an international stage at the Indigenous Games.
A banquet to recognize those efforts was held on Sunday, Aug. 13, at the Ho-Chunk Convention Center, Wisconsin Dells.
Athletes and their families gathered to talk about their journey to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, their competition experiences, and the results of their efforts. The Indigenous Games were held July 16 to 23, which involved athletes from the United States and Canada. The event is conducted every three years.
Damian Thundercloud was the master-of-ceremonies. Lanette Walker said she was grateful that Nicole Oknewski provided the leadership this year for the Ho-Chunk group in Team Wisconsin, since she had previously been in that capacity for many years.
“Watching our young people compete at a high level in their various forms of athletics is something that, as a spectator and a tribal member, I will take with me forever,” Thundercloud said.
“Seeing their excitement, from the opening ceremonies to when they’re on the medal podium, is something they will not forget. The excitement will be taken back to their families and inspire the next group of athletes,” he said.
Team Wisconsin won the Todd Diabo Memorial Trophy for wrestling, which included Ho-Chunk wrestlers Josh Ryckman and Justice Blackhawk. Josh was present for the awards banquet and he and coach Marty Ybarra displayed the trophy.
“Overall, the kids did great,” Oknewski said. “The best part of the trip was being with them, making sure they had their schedules and making their games and practices – the daily runaround.
“I’m surprised at how well they did, not just with earning the medals, but also how well they behaved and how much fun we had,” she said.