In the
Spotlight

Devon frazier, Miss native oklahoma and softball pitcher, wears her native pride on her sleeve in all she does but she didn’t always feel so confident.

Devon Frazier doesn’t like to say the words out loud.

They were typed on sheets of paper stuffed in her locker at Little Axe High School, whose 350-odd students were mostly white.

“Ugly squaw,” the notes read.

“Try to be better than us and you’ll fail, because you’re a nobody…”

“You’re a fake Indian whore, and you can’t change it.”

She was 16, the only Native American member of her school’s show choir group. She never found out who wrote the notes, but they stopped coming once she dropped out of the group.

The words hurt.

“I wanted to be known as the girl who portrayed confidence,” Devon said five years later. “I wanted to be able to show people that I was proud of coming from where I was.”

So she did. Devon not only represented her tribe, but all Native American women when she won Miss Indian Oklahoma 2011. Now, she’s a junior history major interested in tribal law and a softball pitcher at St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee.

“The best kind of resistance to give is to show that it doesn’t bother you,” she said. “I love to do so many things and I’m not going to let what people think of me hold me back from doing what I enjoy.”

Devon has made a suit of armor out of her pride for her culture – that and a big smile.

“It’s very rare that you’ll see Devon without a smile,” Devon’s softball coach, D.J. Sanchez said.

It’s the same smile, her grandmother, Teri Reed has been familiar with since Devon was in diapers, helping her grow from a little girl to a young lady. Reed would take her to Barnes & Noble and challenge her to read big-girl books like “Charlotte’s Web.”

“She was adamant that she did not want that book,” Reed said. “About three days later she called me and goes, ‘I loved this book’ and ‘I want to read it again.’

“I like to challenge her to try new things, but as she got older I didn’t have to challenge her as much because she was willing to try it.”

photo

The grandmother of 10 was taken by surprise when she saw Devon dressed in her intricate turquoise and purple tribal regalia, ready to participate in the 2012 spring ceremonial Bread Dance. She knew her granddaughter was a busy sophomore in college and didn’t expect to see her. Later on, Devon sat with her grandmother. Moving her head from side to side, she sat in silence as she watched the dancers and families at their tent sites.

Taking in the beauty of the scene, Devon said, “I’m so proud of my tribe.”

“I got a lump in my throat as soon as she said that,” Reed said, recalling that spring day. “I knew exactly what she was feeling because I was feeling the same thing.”

At that moment, Reed knew her granddaughter was no longer the little girl who refused to step outside what she knew. Struggling to find the perfect words to express the special moment, Reed could only describe it as Li-Si-Wi-Nwi, meaning “Among the Shawnees,” a phrase from the Absentee Shawnee logo once created by Devon’s great-grandfather, Leroy White.

“It’s really important for me to be able to share that culture,” Devon said. “It means bringing past into present.”

Juggling her life as an enrolled member of the Absentee Shawnee Tribe, full-time student and a softball player, Devon is a 4.0 student who carries 17 credit hours in history, political science, language and visual art, but maintains her softball scholarship with up to 10 hours of practice, pitching more than 800 times a week.

“It’s really hard to live in a modern world when you’re a Native American because it’s hard to incorporate both your cultures,” she said.

Yet, Devon says she finds a balance.

“There’s always those times where you have to choose between the two,” Devon said.

As a child, Devon’s passion for softball grew with her, but her dedication left her out of the loop with friends. Excellence took time and though it’s laughable now, Devon missed her fourth-grade best friend’s many slumber parties because she had to play softball.

Now older and farther away from home, she has more difficult decisions to make. When she has to, she almost always chooses her Native American culture.

“It’s really a part of who I am in the end.”

photo

 

Family occupies a special place in Devon’s memories of home. She remembers home as a place where she harvested crops with her family. It’s where she once attached macaroni-filled boxes to her legs with her sisters in place of the heavier, traditional turtle shell shakers used in her tribe’s stomp dances.

But most importantly, home is the traditional food she helped her mother prepare. The best meals complete with her favorites, hominy and fry bread, which she could never find at the nearest Pizza Hut or IHOP in Shawnee.

“A simple meal for dinner with my family can bring back so many memories,” she said.

With her family roughly 40 minutes away in Little Axe, Okla., a rural community named after a Shawnee Indian Chief, the connection with her parents and two sisters, Andee and Kendell, never falters. In fact, the distance strengthens their connection.

Witnessing her sister’s accomplishments firsthand has left 18-year-old Andee with big shoes to fill.

“She’s a major role model for me and she’s always there for us,” Andee said. “I want to be like my sister.”

Their mom, Lisa, said her daughters are competitive and ambitious. She remembers a sixth-grade devon coming home from school one day with tear-filled eyes and a B on her progress report.

“It was an 89, and she was one point from having an A,” Lisa said, laughing. “She was so upset, we’re talking crocodile tears. Her life was ruined.”

Lisa said she told Devon that her grade would be averaged at the end of the semester, that Bs were OK. Devon would have none of it. With perseverance as her guide, she was set on excellence yet again.

“She told me she would never let that happen again,” Lisa said.


photo

Sporting a pink blazer nearly the color of her lip gloss, Devon recounts her grandmother’s stories of how she’s related to Chief Tecumseh, the historical Shawnee chief, as a sixth-great-granddaughter. Proud of where her family comes from, Devon names each of her relatives leading to Chief Tecumseh as if she’s reciting the alphabet.

“It goes me, it goes to my mother Lisa Devon, it goes to my grandmother Teresa White, it goes to my great-grandfather Leroy White to Teeny Little Jim, Little Jim, Big Jim, Naythawaynah and then Chief Tecumseh,” she says.

“It gives me the sense that I’m still a Native American princess.” She giggles.

Knowing that she’s related to a prominent chief recognized for being a great leader, Devon smiles from ear to ear.

“It makes me giddy,” she says. “I feel like I have some kind of connection of having leadership and being able to unite people and share my culture.”

Nicole Walls, president of the Oklahoma Federation of Indian Women was immediately moved by Devon’s bubbly personality and her eagerness to meet and greet with every contestant. She was even more impressed after Devon won.

“As Miss Indian Oklahoma there are certain events you have to attend,” Walls said. “She went to those events and more. Throughout the year she went to over 100 events.”

I wanted to be known as the girl who portrayed confidence. I wanted to be able to show people that I was proud of coming from where I was.”

Devon Frazier

Devon’s passionate nature doesn’t fall short during softball games as a decorated pitcher with awards for Fastpitch All-State, Scholar-Athlete of the Year and many other titles.

“One of the greatest things about Devon is that she has so much energy,” Devon’s coach, Sanchez said. “One of the reasons I was really excited to take this job was knowing Frazier was here.”

On the field, Devon is focused. She’s a student, daughter and sister, but when it’s her turn to strategize and send the ball as fast as possible to her opponent, she’s a pitcher.

“We’re a family within St. Gregory’s, and she brings that,” Sanchez said. “Frazier worries about the other 17 players on our team before she worries about Frazier. I think that was definitely fostered in her upbringing.”

Her Native American roots have left impressions on St. Gregory’s campus. Being able to share her story and culture has fueled Devon’s role as a teacher to those who have misconceptions about Native Americans.

When people ask her, “Do you live in teepees?” Devon shakes away anger and tells them what’s really true of Native Americans today.

“I usually answer with laughter,” she said. “People want to know about Native American culture. It makes me happy that people want to know and it makes me proud that I have that knowledge to tell.”

At that moment, I knew she had matured into the woman I always knew she could be. And that no matter where her life might take her, she would always have one foot firmly planted Among the Shawnees.” Teri Reed

Hours later, Devon’s lips are still shiny with pink as she explores her dorm room. Room 201 is her home away from home and it would be sterile if not for the hints of red, black and zebra print she has deposited around the room.

“Being a Native American woman is being proud of what has been accomplished over the last couple of years, over the decades and centuries.

“I want my own life to be kind of a model for what younger generations might want to have when they get to my age.”

As for her grandmother, Reed holds the memory of that spring day close to her heart. She said it not only strengthened her connection to her granddaughter, but also Devon’s ties to her culture.

“At that moment, I knew she had matured into the woman I always knew she could be,” Reed said, “and that no matter where her life might take her, she would always have one foot firmly planted among the Shawnees.”

Published

Credits

Read Another Story

LaDonna Harris