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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Chee Spreads the Gospel of Rugby to Native American Kids

I am currently working as a contract nurse at the Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock, New Mexico. Anybody who picks up  newspaper can be blown away by the amount of bad news on the Navajo Reservation: alcoholism, diabetes, obesity, poverty, spouse abuse, depression, violence (usually while under the influence of alcohol) and kids dropping out of school.

There are some positive things that I have noticed in working with the Navajo people: among the Navajo people, it is considered a loss of face and self control to yell at somebody. (In 7 weeks, I have yet to have a Navajo be rude to me, something I cannot say in any other place I have lived) The Navajo are very differential to their elderly. The Navajo take great pride in military service. True, it's a way off "The Rez", but the warrior spirit lives on. Wrestling, Basketball, mixed-martial arts and cross-country running are very popular among Navajo youth.

A man named Chee Montano has been doing his part of spreading the gospel of rugby to Native American kids in his native Gallup, New Mexico. He is aided and abetted by his charming wife Timaris. As if that was not enough, Chee has also had his hand into trying to get the San Juan Silverbacks Rugby Football Club in Farmington on it's feet. Chee actually found me through Facebook when I posted a question on the New Mexico Brujos page. 

I have been going to some practices here in Farmington. We have a handful of players who show up for practice. We do what we can to work on skills, but have not had too much of a chance to do full-contact practice. 

On Saturday, a game was arranged between Fort Lewis College from Durango, Colorado(about a 45 minute drive from Farmington) and a combined team of San Juan and Chee's high school players from Gallup- a little over 2 hour drive. All sides were missing some players, so we had Fort Lewis play a combined Silverback/Gallup High School team. We ended up playing 11 on 11, and Chee was the referee.

My wife, Rebekah found the perfect use of her R2D2 that she won in a drawing at a local supermarket. She packed it with water, Gatorade and soda for the players. The kids got a big kick out of their high-tech cooler....

At 51,I was in the unique situation of being well over the combined age of my two fellow front-rowers. (Both had to be 15-16) I have to say, I was very impressed with how brave these two kids were in the scrums going against bigger, stronger, more mature college kids. They never whined or bitched about it "not being fair" or anything like that. These kids played hard the entire game, even though Fort Lewis won it going away, something like 44-15. 

Yeah, I was sore walking off the pitch, but I thought that this was something involving Native American kids that was so positive, that somebody needs to read about it. Chee and Timaris Montana give their heart and soul-to say nothing of time and money- to these kids and the sport of rugby. The Fort Lewis College players were also good sports-they knew they were much bigger and stronger than the Gallup kids, and did not try to obliterate them when tackling them. 

On a St. Patrick's day in the high desert of Northwest New Mexico, rugby showed once again why it's such a great game, and that it attracts some of the nicest people. The sport of rugby in the USA is richer by having people like Chee and Timaris Montano spreading the gospel of the oval ball. 

The only St. Patrick's day casualty was R2D2's bladder from holding all of the ice and liquid refreshment...


  1. Steve

    great writing as usual


  2. It is great knowing I am not the only Navajo rugger! Great writing.

    -Andrew (Member of the Northern Arizona Landsharks)

  3. Chee please contact me,, regards Native American Rugby.

  4. As a New Zealander being brought up playing the game then moving on to coaching and managing, as it is one of our national sport. it is wonderful to know that rugby is being enjoyed over there. Sad it is to read the reality of what is happening with some of the Navajo people, however this piece has a positive story on the Navajo and rugby in general. This is the same for our indigenous people of New Zealand (Maori) rugby is great for team bonding and not to mention a great way to release tension. I wish the great sport of rugby well over there. Maybe one day a team/s could come here to NZ and tour our local clubs and have a friendly game/s or vice versa.