The Tribal Adaptive ThunderBirds are Indian Countries first Sportschair Basketball team. While the competitive team is for youth aging 10 to 21 our practices are open to everyone! We practice weekly at San Juan College in Farmington NM. For info please contact Jason Hotchkiss 970-306-9951
The Southwest Thunderbirds
Indian Country’s first Wheelchair Basketball Team
Our vision is to create a weekly program in Farmington NM that will provide access to athletics for Native Americans with disabilities. We will be able to use sports as a tool to increase educational and occupational opportunities. Our team will compete Nationally against other High School wheelchair basketball teams and will work hard with the goal of becoming champions. Through the natural mentorship in team sports our athletes will learn to become mentors themselves and help educate their communities about the potential of people with disabilities.
In 2015, Noah Blue Elk Hotchkiss, founded the Tribal Adaptive Organization with the simple mission of “Using sports as a tool to improve the health and wellness of Native Americans with disabilities”. Since that time he has raised funding for
equipment and to provide Wheelchair Basketball camps on reservations throughout the
Southwest. Noah himself was paralyzed from the waist down in an automobile accident in 2009 at age 11. He was very fortunate to find the Adaptive Sports community quickly after his accident. This gave him focus and a community of people that helped him cope with and overcome his disability. He went on to become a National Champion Mono-skier and wheelchair basketball player, but more importantly Noah became a voice for Native Americans with disabilities. He quickly realized that there were no adaptive sports programs in Indian Country and that the quality of life and access to medical care was very poor. With the help of National Organizations like Running Strong for American Indian Youth and Disabled Sports USA Noah got the support needed to run his first camps. While the camps were well attended and successful, Noah felt that a more consistent type of program is needed to push people to succeed. From his own experience it was his first Wheelchair Basketball team that really turned the tide for him.
The Southwest Jr. Rollin Lobos was formed in 2014 because there were no High School level competitive basketball team in the Southwest and Four Corners region. The closest teams were in Denver, Dallas, Salt Lake and Phoenix. It was a heroic effort by the parents and coaches that launched the Jr. Rollin Lobos. By competing with other established teams the Lobo’s quickly learned that they were going to have to practice and work hard if they were going to be able to compete against other youth. It was in this process that their primary self-identity changed from
being “kid’s with a disabilities” to being “student-athletes”. Six of these original Lobos are now attending college, with four of them receiving scholarships to play Wheelchair Basketball at the
Collegiate level at great schools like the University of Illinois, University of Arizona and the University of Texas. Without the chance to play at the high school level, this would not have been possible. However, the Jr. Rollin Lobos did not have the organizational capacity or funding to continue beyond this first epic year. In year 2 they were absorbed by a well funded program out of Phoenix AZ. Tribal Adaptive seeks to build that organizational capacity in the Thunderbirds program to serve the Four Corners region.
(Tribal Adaptive campers at University of Illinois camp visit the U of I Native American House) 2017
Tribal Adaptive’s long term goal is to have access to athletics for Native Americans with disabilities in every Native Community in America. But this journey begins with a single step. Farmington NM is a reservation border town that is close to 6 reservations, by building a program here we are also filling a gap in access to competitive adaptive sports where the closest other programs are at least 6 hours away. As we build we will focus on creating replicable opportunities that can assist other
Native Communities to build their own. Access to athletics is a bridge that we use to develop relationships with athletes and their families which will allow us to Mentor them to
become leaders in their communities. We can help navigate tricky obstacles like adequate medical supplies, finding grants to purchase athletic equipment, developing and implementing IEP’s(individualized education plans) and how to work with the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. We can expose them to opportunities like joining Disabled Sports USA’s E-Team and introduce them to Collegiate and Paralympic coaches. Major studies have shown that participation in sports for individuals with disabilities leads to greater success in school, careers and life.