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NSU honors Native Americans with heritage day game

The Dec. 18, 2022, women’s basketball game between Nova Southeastern University and Saginaw Valley State University featured four Native Americans. From left to right, NSU’s twin sister tandem of Kyannah Grant and Kyarrah Grant (both Navajo/Choctaw) and Skyla Osceola (Seminole Tribe) and Saginaw Valley State’s Tori DePerry (Ojibwe/Stockbridge). (Photo Kevin Johnson)

DAVIE — The victory on the scoreboard for the Nova Southeastern University women’s basketball team told only part of the story about its game Dec. 18 against Saginaw Valley State University.

Sure, the hard-fought 75-71 win by the Sharks against their opponent from Michigan kept red-hot NSU sizzling this season with nine wins in its first 10 games. But the Sunday matinee at Rick Case Arena also featured plenty of Native American presence on and off the court.

NSU’s Native American Heritage Day at the arena brought together Seminole Tribe of Florida’s culture, Native dancers and two all-time great Native female basketball players. The game itself featured four Native American players: NSU’s identical twin guards Kyannah Grant and Kyarrah Grant (both Navajo/Choctaw), from Mississippi, and Skyla Osceola (Seminole Tribe) from the nearby Hollywood Reservation. The other side featured Saginaw Valley’s second leading scorer Tori DePerry (Ojibwe/Stockbridge).

After battling for four quarters in a playoff-type, physical game, the four Native players met at midcourt in a friendly, brief encounter to introduce each other.

DePerry didn’t know about NSU’s Native day until she saw the Iron Horse dancers before the game.

“I thought it was so cool [NSU] had Native American Day. I came and saw them in their regalia and I thought that’s awesome,” said DePerry, who was a force all game and led her team with 21 points and 10 rebounds.

NSU’s Skyla Osceola, left, and Kyarrah Grant, center, battle Saginaw Valley State’s Tori DePerry (22) on Dec. 18, 2022. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

Several Seminoles were in attendance, including representatives from the tribe’s Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and Seminole Okalee Indian Village, which had a display set up for spectators to learn more about the tribe.

“It’s always a blast when they can come out and support. It’s always nice seeing everyone,” Osceola said. “We always want to win, but when you have people here who come and support, it gives you that extra drive.”

Osceola’s extra effort at both ends of the court helped NSU shake off a shaky start. Trailing 7-4, Osceola came off the bench and helped NSU find its rhythm for the next five minutes.

Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and Seminole Okalee Indian Village were represented at the game by, from left to right, Gordon “Ollie” Wareham, Michael Gentry, Everett Osceola, James Holt and Van Samuels. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

“She definitely makes us calm,” said Kyannah Grant. “When everyone is getting sporadic…Sky is so unselfish and she communicates a lot. She brings the whole team together. We’re like, ‘Sky is here. Let’s calm down and run our stuff.’ She’s really a team player and we love having her.”

Osceola finished with three points and two assists in 17 minutes. Kyarrah Grant had five points, three steals, three rebounds and two assists. Kyannah Grant played far bigger than her 5-foot-6 frame; she grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds – a remarkable seven more than any of her teammates – and chipped in with four points and an assist.

At halftime, the dancers performed for the crowd. They included Little Big Mountain (Comanche and Mohawk), CreeD Big Mountain (Comanche and Mohawk Kahnawake Quebec), Otter Oliver (White Bear First Nations) and Dakota Oliver (Rose Bud Lakota).

Dakota Oliver performs a jingle dance at halftime of the NSU women’s basketball game Dec. 18, 2022, in Davie. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

Dances included an Ojibwe jingle dance to honor the women of Turtle Island and a Northern traditional old style war dance to honor the men of Turtle Island.

“It was really nice and really cool that everyone can see our culture and our culture being expressed,” Kyarrah Grant said.

The Seminole Tribe’s Everett Osceola spoke to the crowd about the tribe and its culture as well as its venues– such as the museum and village – where the public can learn more about the tribe.

Also at halftime, Gwynn Grant and RaeAnn West were interviewed courtside during NSU’s broadcast. Gwynn Grant (Navajo) is the mother of the NSU twins and is a former basketball standout at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, where she is an inductee in its hall of fame. West (Navajo) was a star at Northern Arizona University and played professionally.

For Seminoles who want to see NSU play, the Sharks have eight regular season home games remaining in Davie. They also have away games close to other Seminole reservations, including Jan. 28 at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Feb. 11 at St. Leo University, Feb. 18 at the University of Tampa and Feb. 22 at Eckerd in St. Petersburg.

Little Big Mountain performs at halftime of the NSU women’s basketball game Dec. 18, 2022. (Photo Kevin Johnson)
The Nova Southeastern University women’s basketball team poses with Little Big Mountain before its game Dec. 18, 2022. (Courtesy photo)
Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson is senior editor. He has worked for The Seminole Tribune since 2014. He was previously an editor, photographer and reporter for newspapers in Southwest Florida and Connecticut. Contact Kevin at