UNM College of Education Professor Shawn Secatero with the help of the SENAI committee hosts the 6th Annual Striking Eagle Native American Invitational on Dec. 28-30 at UNM's Johnson Center.

The SENAI event is sanctioned by the New Mexico Activities Association and is the largest Native American basketball tournament in the State of New Mexico featuring 48 high school and 16 junior high teams from various tribal nations including New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. The main focus of the tournament is preparing young students for college with opportunities through workshops, informational sessions, motivational speakers and appropriate role models.

The tournament also aims to inform participants about health awareness issues and promotes healthy lifestyles through diet, exercise and positive choices.

There are eight school brackets which represent Native tribal sacred animals and beings, and concepts which include Eagle-Vision bracket, boys medium school – Class 3A; Turtle-Wisdom bracket, girls medium school – Class 3A; Bear-Strength bracket, boys small school – Class 2A or smaller; and Roadrunner-endurance bracket, girls small school – Class 2A or smaller.

This year, organizers added the Bison-Purpose Bracket, boys large school – Class 4A or higher; Hawk-Medicine bracket, girls large school – Class 4A or higher; Lobo-Identity bracket boys middle school; and Deer-Heart Bracket, girls middle school.

In the spirit of athletic competition, each school is given a trophy regardless of the outcome of their tournament games. The championship teams are presented with a banner to display on their home school gym along with t-shirts for coaches and team members.

There will be an All-Tourney team for the championship brackets, and a Second Honorable Mention team for the consolation brackets. Cottonwood Classical Preparatory School is invited to play as the non-Native guest team to participate in the SENAI event to promote diversity and friendship.

Several new teams to the SENAI family include Rough Rock out of Arizona and a Cibecue team also from Arizona who represent the White Mountain Apache Tribe in Eastern Arizona.

Several teams back from a year of absence include: Shiprock Northwest Falcons, Jemez Valley Warriors, Pine Hill Warriors, and the Navajo Prep Lady Eagles.

Last year’s SENAI event had a record breaking 62 teams participate along with 720 student athletes and 4,715 spectators.

Due to last year’s event, 24 Native American Students enrolled at UNM as freshman, and Secatero has been asked to present on, “Soaring to new heights in Student Athletics and Education: The Striking Eagle Native American Basketball Invitational and Education Fair,” at the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education (WIPCE) 2017.