SRPMIC Flag Carried During NCAA Men’s Final Four Championship Game

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Heaven Sepulveda holds the SRPMIC flag on the basketball court at the NCAA Final Four Championship game. Photos submitted by Heaven Sepulveda

On April 8 in Glendale, Arizona, on traditional O’odham land, the 22 tribal nations of Arizona were spotlighted as March Madness came to an exciting end with the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship game. At State Farm Stadium, No. 1 seeds Purdue and UConn battled it out, with UConn defeating Purdue 75-60.

Chairman Robert Miguel of the Ak-Chin Indian Community, a member of the Final Four Planning Committee, recommended that the NCAA add some “Native flair” at the game, and the NCAA delivered.

Before the game, Diné singer, actress and model Kahara Hodges sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the Tohono O’odham Nation Color Guard presented the flags.

Members of tribal nations who were students and alumni from Arizona State University, Grand Canyon University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona carried their flags across the hardwood floor, including SRPMIC member Heaven Sepulveda, who carried the SRPMIC flag. Sepulveda was asked by the Office of American Indian Initiatives at ASU to represent the school as a doctoral student.

According to N. Levi Esquerra, senior vice president, Native American Advancement and Tribal Engagement at the University of Arizona, this was the first time the Final Four has celebrated Native American heritage in such a format.

Tina Gargus, Native American Advancement and Tribal Engagement program manager, assisted with the event planning and programming and was instrumental in the presentation. The flags that were displayed on the court are the flags that usually stand on display in Old Main, the oldest building on the University of Arizona campus.

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