By Dan Ninham
The Central Lakes College (CLC) Raiders in Brainerd, MN have drawn indigenous athletes, coaches and administrators to its athletic programs for several years.
Tanisha Beetso, a member of the Navajo Nation, is a long way from her homelands in the four corners area of Farmington, NM. She is the assistant coach for the CLC women’s basketball program. Beetso was also a former star basketball player for the CLC Raiders.
During her CLC Raiders playing career, she received first team all-region, all-state and all-northern division awards. She graduated from CLC in the spring of 2019 and continued her education at Mayville State University in Mayville, N. Dak. where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Applied Psychology with a coaching certificate in the spring of 2022.
“After I graduated from Mayville State in North Dakota, CLC staff member Mary Sam reached out to me and told me CLC had a new head coach for women’s basketball,” said Tanisha Beetso. “Head Coach Krystal Brodeen and I got along very quickly. We shared the same goals for the program and our personalities meshed well.”
As a Navajo woman, Beetso also connects well with the northern Minnesota indigenous people and ceremonies. She said, “I am very involved with my culture as well as other tribe’s cultures.”
“During the summer I travel all over the U.S and Canada to attend powwows as I dance the jingle dress. I attend round dances … and sometimes I attend the Ojibwe big drum ceremonies. Attending these different cultural events helps me shape into who I am today,” added Beetso.
Mentors help guide professional people to make a good transition helping others. “One of my professional mentors is Mary Sam,” said Beetso. “During my years, she was the one person I would always go to when I was having difficulties with anything and she was there even after I left CLC.”
“As a student athlete at Central Lakes College, Tanisha inspired players around her to be and to do better, on and off the court,” said Mary Sam, CLC Dean of Students, Equity and Inclusion. “As a first year assistant coach, Tanisha is using her grit, passion for the game and voice to challenge, model and help her players see and believe in their value on and off the court. Her players would tell you that she believes in them, is a quiet leader, and when she speaks up everyone listens and responds.”
“Tanisha inspires our other Indigenous athletes to follow their dreams. Our indigenous athletes are inspired to see someone that walks in two worlds as a basketball coach. As Indigenous women, we have the opportunity to play a huge role in mentoring and role modeling taking risks, believing in ourselves and lifting one another up,” added Sam.
“Head Coach Krystal Brodeen is always one step ahead of the game and always makes sure to include everyone within our program,” said Beetso. “She is strong and resilient and stands up for what she believes in and observing her for the past few months is teaching me to do the same.”
“Tanisha has been an amazing asset to our coaching staff and team this year,” said CLC head women’s basketball coach Krystal Brodeen. “I was a coach at another college in our conference when she played at CLC, and remembered how much of a talented player she was. So when Mary Sam mentioned last spring that she was back in town, I agreed to reach out.”
“I always try to remember how I felt as a new coach starting out, and the mentorship I wish I had gotten, preferably from another female coach. I try my best to share with Tanisha the lessons I’ve learned and give her opportunities to grow as a coach and work with the team in different ways,” added Brodeen.
CLC Assistant Coach Beetso she has the support of the CLC coaching staff. “It’s been such an adventure,” she said. “We have two native women, Samantha Quigley, Navajo, and Clara Meyer, Ojibwe, on our team and it’s been so much fun learning about them and having similar interests. Being able to joke around with them like I used to while living near the Navajo reservation has made me feel so much at home, especially because Samantha and I are the same tribe.”
“It makes me proud to see other native athletes succeed outside our homelands and continuing to get educated,” she added.