Q&A: NFL Lineman Eli Ankou discusses #MyCauseMyCleats campaign and why he feels Native Americans are underrepresented

Yesterday we shared part one of our two-part Q&A with Eli Ankou of the Jacksonville Jaguars and why he chose Partnership With Native Americans for the NFL’s #MyCauseMyCleats campaign. Today, we share more of our conversation focused on Native Americans, the social issues affecting reservation communities and what Eli would like to see us all do to raise up Native youth for a brighter future.

Eli Ankou Interview, Part II

PWNA: You mentioned you feel Native Americans are underrepresented in the U.S. Could you share more about this?

ELI: Across North America, they are kind of an underrepresented population in terms of music, sports, pop culture and other aspects. My Cause, My Cleats is one way to bring attention to social issues pertaining to Native American communities. Sports and entertainment are great ways to introduce more about the culture to a broader spectrum of people, and expressing our culture is a great way to connect with people.

PWNA: Are there particular social issues of concern to you?

ELI: It has to do with the lack of visibility, and I think the main issue for me is that there are so many problems that are simply not brought to the attention of the general public. I remember hearing a statistic on women disappearing from reservations, or problems with a lack of water. There are so many different issues and it would be good to give a voice to those issues.

PWNA: And relevant to this goal, is there a certain message you want to send people?

ELI:  I would tell the younger generation, the kids and the teenagers, that you hold the most power on social media, and it’s a great platform to let your voices be heard. Help us get a message out that Native American youth are capable of whatever they set their mind to — it only takes hard work. The more people who are on board with this, the better. We need to help Native communities get on their feet and then pass it on to help others.

PWNA: In other words, you’re asking the youth in this country — Native and non-Native — to help motivate and empower one another, and to raise awareness and resources to benefit Native communities?

ELI: Absolutely.

PWNA:  What are you personally doing to empower Native youth?

ELI:  I am planning on hosting a few football camps and inviting kids from local reservations. It doesn’t have to be tackle football but getting them out to play and gaining a sense that they can do something if they put their mind to it. I want to be able to reach as many kids as possible and look forward to working with PWNA to make this possible.

** We often hear that we need to get the attention of others in order to spread the word about the realities for many Native American communities. Yet, it’s not every day that someone as familiar to the general public as Eli Ankou is passionate enough to use their voice and help the message be heard. PWNA is sincerely honored that Eli believes in our mission and shares in his commitment to empower Native American youth and encourage the generations of tomorrow to help each other.

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