Basketball & Politics, Basketball & Race

Kyrie Irving’s mom was member of Standing Rock Sioux, and he’s re-connecting with his native roots

Kyrie Irving is an NBA superstar and his accomplishments on the court include being an NBA champion, a seven-time NBA All-Star, and future Hall-of-Famer. In recent years, Irving has been focused on off-the-court achievements; particularly in the social justice and philanthropic realms.

You may have heard that the Brooklyn Nets star bought George Floyd’s family a house. As you know, Floyd’s death at the knee of police officer Derek Chauvin last year triggered racial justice protests throughout 2020. During the pandemic-impacted 2020 NBA season, Irving was the leading voice that was calling for NBA players  – who are 80% Black – to boycott the season so that the league wouldn’t take attention away from the social justice movements.

Kyrie and Standing Rock

A few years before the unprecedented year we had in 2020, Kyrie Irving was already involved in other social justice and activism; one issue that was especially close to his heart was Standing Rock.

You may have heard that in 2016, Irving tweeted his support for the Standing Rock Reservation where protectors from the tribe and outside of the tribe protested and demonstrated against the Dakota Access Pipeline. In 2017, Irving donated $100,000 to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

Later on we would learn that Irving has a deeper connection to the Native-American tribe.

Kyrie Irving’s Mother

Born in Australia and playing high school basketball in the New Jersey, Irving didn’t know his mom Elizabeth very well. She passed away from sepsis when Kyrie was just four years old. What was know was that Kyrie’s mother was a member of the Standing Rock Sioux, and was biracial having a Native American mother and Black father according to The Washington Post.

That means that Kyrie Irving’s background is a lot more diverse than most casual fans know. If Elizabeth — named Cynthia Jeannette Mountain by her birth parents before she was given up for adoption — was half-Black and half Lakota Native American, that means that Kyrie Irving is mixed race; 75% Black and 25% Native American.

The Standing Rock Sioux is small; with just 8,200 people in the tribe. The tribe, like many Native American tribes, operate casino resorts on their reservations. The Sioux own the Prairie Knights Casino Resort in North Dakota. The resort features the typical slot machines, blackjack and craps tables where you can gamble and earn a valuable Karamba Bonus Code. In addition to the thriving casinos on the property, the resort also is a hotel that has approximately 2o0 rooms for guests of the casino

Irving has proudly embraced his quarter heritage of Sioux blood. In 2018, Nets star was given the Lakota name, “Hela,” (pronounced HAY’-law) which means “Little Mountain” [(his sister Asia was called “Tatanka Winyan” (tuh-TONG’-kuh WEE’-yun)] which means “Buffalo Woman.”  Irving has also taken up burning sage before a game, a ritual popular among Native Americans to remove negative energy.

Private to Public Recognition

Much of the work that Kyrie has done was behind-the-scenes. When he went to visit the Sioux Reservation, there was a strict no camera and no video policy as he humbly discovered and proudly reconciled his Native-American bloodline. Since then he has given more clues to how he now identifies. In 2019, Irving went deeper into his heritage during an interview with ESPN.

“I’m actually Sioux Indian,” Irving said. “My mom was adopted . . . there’s a home connection that was going on there.”

Kyrie and his sister’s Lakota background actually gives them “Indian land grant rights.” As Kyrie became a superstar in the NBA, his relatives on the reservation that knew of his root attempted to contact him.  Eventually, Danielle Finn, the Sioux tribe’s Director of External Affairs emailed the agency representing Kyrie and eventually started a conversation between the two parties.

“It’s something I’ve been searching for,” Char White Mountain said. “Our prayers were answered.”

They set up a ceremony in which Kyrie and Asia would meet their distant relatives on the Sioux Reservation. It was clearly an impactful and emotional event for both. Near the end of the ceremony, Asia used her hand to wipe away tears. Kyrie had his head down, stood quietly and pensively next to her with his eyes closed.

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