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Offensive email causes St. Michaels to abstain from El Capitan games

CHINLE

In late July, 1A athletic directors discussed a conflict in the upcoming basketball schedule through email.

During this discussion on July 21, the new El Capitan AD, Derek Stransky, asked Williams High AD, Phillip Echeverria, to clarify the sports schedule for his school. Echeverria explained and then asked if Stransky was in a situation where El Capitan and St. Michaels Indian School couldn’t find an agreeable date, resulting in a canceled game.

Echeverria then CC’d St. Michaels AD, Carl Adams, into the conversation so that they were all on the same page.

Stransky then sent the following email:

“Yes, I’m in this situation with Carl and other Native schools. I didn’t agree to this, so I’m assuming Smith did. Schools in Utah and Vegas are closer and better than Native schools at El Cap, so going forward, I would appreciate it if the Native schools weren’t added to our schedule without my permission.”

Adams was stunned by the email and, an hour later, had sent back a response while also CC other ADs who weren’t a part of the original thread, including other rez schools.

“I am very upset about the attached email that I received this afternoon from the Athletic Director at El Capitan. What was written was extremely inappropriate and offensive to myself and other Native American Schools that offer not only great competition but respected sportsmanship in all athletic programs.”

Sportsmanship

In an interview, Adams explained the email undermines the spirit of sportsmanship and implied that El Capitan students were better than other students on the reservation. He points out that many Native teams make it to state tournaments and win state titles.

Stransky’s email seemed to incorporate all Native schools in his criticism, one of the reasons Adams felt the need to speak up for his school and the whole community. In his opinion, this makes rez sports unique because even though there are different teams they still support their Native children even if they’re from other schools.

For example, they were eliminated from the state competition last year but cheered on the remaining Native teams still playing.

Adams felt El Capitan and SMIS were on reasonable grounds, he had a good relationship with the previous AD, and they always hosted events together, sharing food and hospitality at one another’s venues. This is the first time such an issue has occurred.

“It’s small things like this that when it’s said and nothing’s really being done about it, it makes it seem like it’s okay,” Adams said. “It’s not speaking for myself, but it’s also speaking for my school, comments like that tend to elevate towards Native schools, and unfortunately, I’m just tired of it.

“And personally, as a Native American AD, that’s never my attitude, or not even the environment being present in Native schools, towards schools like this,” Adams said. “It just kind of felt like a slap in the face because we always helped that school.”

Email from Shonto Prep

The following day, AD Amber Yazzie of Shonto Preparatory Technology High School sent her an email.

“On behalf of Shonto Prep School, I am supportive of SMIS and their concerns with Mr. Stransky’s email below. If this indicates El Capitan’s standpoint toward ‘Native’ schools, then Shonto will need to reconsider our future competitions with El Capitan with the utmost interest concerning our students, coaches, and district.”

Shonto Prep declined to make any further comments.

Two hours after Yazzie’s email, El Capitan’s superintendent, Carol Timpson, sent a formal apology to SMIS and the recipients included in the emails.

“Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. The El Capitan administrative team highly values our relationships with our statewide schools. We disagree with the sentiment expressed in Coach Stransky’s email.

“Please allow us to work with Coach Stransky to correct this behavior and repair relationships with your schools. We offer you our sincere apology and look forward to working with you in the future.”

El Capitan has yet to respond to the Navajo Times’s request for comment.

Adams is grateful for the apology but said St. Michaels would continue to abstain from any further sports activity with El Capitan, explaining in an email he sent back to Timpson.

The email reads:

“Saint Michael Indian School was founded by Saint Katherine Drexel and today is still part of the Order of Sisters she founded, the sisters of the Blessed Sacrament (SBS). The ideals and values of the SBS are rooted in the love of all children, and we work hard to ensure our students are not subject to racism at any level.”

Not first encounter

Adams said that this, unfortunately, wasn’t the first time the school had had such an encounter. Sometimes he heard student-athletes or fans making offensive remarks in ignorance. A stereotypical warrior chant, for instance, may seem acceptable to an outsider, but some Native parents found the chants offensive.

The message has caused Adams to worry that there may be others at the school, athletes, and personnel, who may share the same attitude as the AD, and he doesn’t want to expose his students to unwarranted hate, which is why SMIS is abstaining.

He has yet to hear further from El Capitan or the AIA, which he had notified not long after.

Adams said other Native schools are reportedly abstaining from competing with El Capitan, but this is unconfirmed.

With St. Michaels no longer playing El Capitan, it’ll be more challenging for them and other Native schools opting out of playing El Capitan to make it to regionals and get accurate rankings. He hopes the AIA will address the matter and come to a solution.

Adams isn’t sure what can be done to put his mind at ease and allow activities to resume with El Capitan.

Adams said he is making the safety of the students, coaches, and parents of the St. Michaels community his priority and doesn’t want to send them to an unwelcoming community.

“It’s just tiring at this point,” Adams said. “We’re very much in the 21st century, but it (racism) is still present. I just want things better for my athletes and my coaches and a better environment for them to compete in athletics and stay in Arizona.”


About The Author

David Smith

David Smith was born and raised in Chinle, Arizona. He graduated from Chinle High School in 2015 and went on to study journalism at Northern Arizona University. He graduated in the spring of 2020 with his bachelors in journalism and a minor in English. He later moved back home where he worked as sports writer for the Navajo Times until fall 2022.

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