Dowagiac athletes reflect on North American Indigenous Games experience

Published 3:30 pm Monday, August 28, 2023

DOWAGIAC — A pair of Dowagiac athletes were able to represent both their community and their tribe on a continental stage this summer.

Senior Josh Winchester-Jones and sophomore Devin Rock were joined by hundreds of Native athletes from across Michigan in the 2023 North American Indigenous Games. Hosted in Halifax, Nova Scotia, from July 15 to 23, the 10th edition of the games brings 5,000 athletes from more than 756 Indigenous nations to compete in 16 sports including three indigenous sports.

Winchester-Jones and Rock – members of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians – competed as members of the Team Michigan U19 basketball team. The duo helped Team Michigan win its three preliminary games to advance to the U19 Quarterfinal before falling to Team British Columbia 83-52. 

Winchester-Jones scored a total of 16 points and Rock added eight.

“It was fun to play with other Native Americans from around Michigan,” Winchester-Jones said.

Winchester-Jones and Rock grew up playing basketball and also play for the high school team. The duo was invited to join the team after meeting with the coaching staff and trying out.

“When I first tried out, I didn’t know we were going to Canada and doing all that,” Winchester-Jones said. “It was definitely a good experience, the biggest experience we’ve had doing basketball.”

“I had never played at that high of a level before,” Rock said. “Going out there and seeing where I’m at basketball-wise was really cool.” 

In addition to basketball, Winchester-Jones and Devin also participate in track and football. Both are looking forward to the school year.

“Basketball is my main sport so I want to play good and show out in that and maybe get a few interests from colleges and stuff,” Winchester-Jones said.

“For football, I would like to go to the playoffs and then for track, I want to just go out there and do my best and see where they put me for basketball,” Rock said. “I would like to keep my grades up so I can get colleges to start looking at me going into my upper class years.”

While the duo was not able to win a championship, they enjoyed being able to represent both their tribe as well as the greater Dowagiac community.

“It’s big because it’s not a big community, there’s not a lot of people,” Winchester-Jones said. “There’s very few people who’ve done big things from this community, so it’s big.”

“It helps put Dowagiac on the map,” Rock added.