Nakomis Mitchell is the NAIG’23 golf silver medalist

Nakomis Mitchell is the NAIG’23 Golf Silver Medalist. (Photo courtesy of Jamie Mitchell.)

By Dan Ninham

Nakomis Mitchell’s Indian name is Gitigiigwanikwe, meaning Spotted Feather Woman. Mitchell is enrolled with the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.

Mitchell played on the golf team for Team Mni-Sota in the North American Indigenous Games 2023 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This fall she will be a freshman at Bemidji State University.

Mitchell comes from a family of golfers and that’s where her inspiration comes from. “My brothers Dakotah Brunelle and Coltin Mitchell have been my biggest inspiration in the golf world,” said Mitchell. “If it wasn’t for them pushing, encouraging and teaching me I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Mitchell graduated from Cass Lake-Bena High School in the Class of 2023 as an Honor Student. She also graduated the Advanced Ojibwe Language/Culture class and received an eagle feather.

Athletically she received a varsity letter beginning in seventh grade and up to graduation. She was named First Team All-Conference in 2021 and 2022 in golf, Second Team All-Conference in 2023 in golf, and All Conference 2022 in volleyball.

The core values of indigenous athletes often define how they practice and compete. “You have to respect the game and the athletes around you,” said Mitchell. “I find staying humble has really helped me in accomplishing my goals in this sport, and before my meets I offer tobacco to the creator. I am a very proud Indigenous Ikwe, meaning woman.
NAIG’23 provided highlights for most athletes. Mitchell said, “My highlights of the tournament were definitely chipping it in for the first time in an actual tournament on Hole 16, and also winning a sudden death playoff to receive my silver medal.”

NAIG’23 athletes are represented as indigenous people by competing against others. “Representing my tribe Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and Team Mni-Sota was a great honor for me,” said Mitchell. “I felt like I had the support of the Leech Lake Reservation with tribal and non-tribal members throughout the state of Minnesota cheering me on as I moved through this three day event.”

“I hope I inspired young and old in the golfing community to be the best that they can be and to work hard to achieve your goals,” said Mitchell.

The Team Mni-Sota golf head coach was Nakomis’ dad Jamie Mitchell and her brother Coltin Mitchell was her assistant coach.

“They were very supportive in helping guide me on some shots that I was unsure of and gave me the confidence to believe I could be a medal winner and helped me keep my head in the game,” said Mitchell.

Coltin Mitchell is Nakomis’ older brother and coach. He said, “One positive attribute Nakomis brought to her round during NAIG was keeping her mental game strong through 54 holes and staying focused on her goal she went out there with. The way she kept her composure, mentally and physically, throughout the three days she played, she’s definitely ready to take the step and play at the next level.”

“She stayed positive, focused and humble throughout her 54 holes of golf,” said dad Jamie Mitchell. “Her goal was to bring home a medal at the start of the games and after playing 54 holes she was tied for the silver or bronze medal. At this point Nakomis knew she had to stay focused and play smart.”

“Her selection of using an iron verses her driver to keep her straight and in the fairway was a smart choice. To watch her tee off and hit a beautiful shot she knew she made the right choice and you could see and feel the confidence she had as we walked down the fairway,” added Coach Jamie.

Coach Jamie continued to talk about his daughter the eventual silver medalist and Team Mni-Sota golfer and said, “She won the silver medal with a par on that hole. It was a pretty special moment for us on the tee box right before she teed off on the sudden death hole. We gave each other a hug and both got a little teary eyed, both knowing that after seven years of coaching her that this was it. My last time standing and walking with her as a coach.”

“Playing on this type of course at NAIG will help her prepare for playing at Bemidji State this fall as the course was tight and you had to be straight,” added Coach Jamie.