Jim Warne’s NFL playing career wasn’t as illustrious as St. Louis Rams quarterback and Cherokee tribal member Sam Bradford’s, but it paid for both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and he is now making an impact in Indian Country.
Warne, Lakota, played left tackle for Arizona State University, helping to pave the way in the Sun Devils’ victory over Michigan in the 1987 Rose Bowl. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1987 and played for NFL Europe in 1991.
Warne, who is the president of the consulting firm, Warrior Society Development LLC, is also working with Native American young people at his tribal youth football camps.
He spends more than 100 days a year on the road taking his youth football camp to reservations around the country. Football is the vehicle, but his message is so much more. The 49-year-old incorporates the Medicine Wheel philosophy of physical, emotional, spiritual and mental balance in his teachings.
He’ll be the first to tell you the kids pay more attention to the initials NFL than they do Ph.D, but whatever gets the message across is okay by him.
“That’s the reality. I’m a few credits short of my Ph.D,” Warne said during a telephone interview with ICTMN. “It’s my passion because I am a Seventh Generation philosophy believer and the Seventh Generation is here. Black Elk said it would take seven generations to heal after Wounded Knee. Those kids are here. I’m seeing more kids that are proud to be an Indian or declaring tribal affiliation succeeding.”
By bringing better equipment and providing coaching from former NFL and college stars to young people on the reservation, he’s giving young players a better opportunity to develop and maybe position themselves for a college scholarship.
But there is more to being a warrior than having physical or aggressive attributes, Warne said.
He believes his message of cultural pride, education and spiritual values will carry a young person further in life than being able to excel on the playing field. Warne uses Native coaches and athletes as examples of success in athletics and academics.
“I’ve been to over 100 reservations in some capacity. Working with a tribe either doing the football camp or grant writing or program and curriculum development,” Warne said. “I do a camp back home at Pine Ridge every year, and I bring (Minnesota Vikings Hall of Famer) Randall McDaniel. When we talk to the schools, I tell him ‘Look, there are 300 kids in this auditorium and 71 percent of these kids are going to drop out. If the public was better educated, this would not be an issue.”
Warne splits his time as the director of the Center for American Indian Rehabilitation at San Diego State University, motivational speaking engagements, as well as his Warrior Society Development LLC programs.
His family relocated to Arizona in 1960 to get away from the turbulent, poverty-stricken Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota.
“When my mom moved to Rapid City, Indians weren’t allowed to live in houses yet. There was a tent city down by the creek where Indians were allowed to live,” he explained. “Even though I am a quote-unquote Urban Indian, I am still a big advocate for Indian Country.”
He’s taken the Warrior Society Development camp throughout Indian Country to work with young people from all Native American nations. He’s worked with the Klamath Tribe, Klamath Modoc and Yahooskin in Oregon.
He’s also put on camps for the Seneca and St. Regis Mohawk Tribes in New York; the Muckleshoot, Kalispel and Colville in Washington state; the Pinoleville, Pala, Soboba, Sycuan, Hoopa, Yurok, Hopland Pomo, Table Mountain, Pechanga and Ft. Mojave tribes in California; and the Seminole Tribes of Florida, as well as others.
The Medicine Wheel is not conducive to all nations, but the basic structure of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual grounding is the common ground.
“The Medicine Wheel philosophy is not common, but the circular balance society is something we have in common,” he said. “You see a lot of tribal logos in a circular form. Our traditional language structure was more circular. We always knew that Mother Earth was round, so when you take the seven directions, it’s a dimensional reality. I always say, ‘This is what I learned from my people, but you can learn from your own.’”
Warne’s Warrior Society Development camp has been teaching this and much more for a decade now; giving the Seventh Generation the inspiration it needs to move forward and do great things.