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Wittenberg-Birnamwood football player plays in Indigenous Bowl, sees larger story

FireEagle WhiteWing looks to help people living in poverty on Native American reservations
Published: Dec. 13, 2021 at 12:46 AM CST
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WITTENBERG, Wis. (WSAW) - At U.S. Bank Stadium, FireEagle WhiteWing was among the best indigenous players in the country on Dec. 5. Fire was selected to play in the Indigenous Bowl, selects the top indigenous football players to play in a football game against each other.

“I was amazed to know that I was that skillful that I was chosen out of 400 kids,” Fire said.

But among his own people for five days, he saw the opportunity as more than just football. He saw a larger story.

“There are a lot of [reservations] around that are in poverty.”

He isn’t wrong. A member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, On Ho-Chunk Nation land in Wisconsin, which Fire lives on, 28.1% of families with children under the age of 18 live in poverty, according to 2019 data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

“It’s bad. There are very few that are able to break the cycle. Which is usually going on like drinking, drugs. Always going to jail,” Fire said.

Fire found refuge in football, which he credits for allowing him to stay away from that crowd.

“It kept my mind off the things and made me want to improve myself. Make myself better so I can help other people out,” he said.

When he was selected to play in the Indigenous Bowl, he saw an opportunity to help himself get exposure and get out of that situation. The game, which his team lost, helped showcase skills to recruiters. In turn, he says he can help kids like him get looked at and improve their life.

A senior at Wittenberg-Birnamwood, Fire still has a long way to go. But he hopes the Indigenous Bowl gives him an opportunity to play football at a college level, then figure out how to lend a helping hand to those still living in poverty on reservations.

“It’s ignored. And I would like to bring attention to that. And give money, get others to get help, get money,” Fire says.

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