Copyright 2017 The Bismarck Tribune, a division of Lee Enterprises
All Rights Reserved
The Bismarck Tribune
CANNON BALL — Located near the banks of the Missouri River in Cannon Ball is a small, deteriorating basketball court.
"(The court) definitely needs work," said Zy'aeria Johnson, 15, who attends high school in Florida but spends her summers in Cannon Ball with her mother, Alisa White Eagle.
The court, though rugged and cracked, is a staple of this low-income community.
Many of the youth who live in Cannon Ball — a small community located on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation — or stay there during the summer, spend a lot of time at the court.
On any given summer day, a group of five to 10 Native American youth are playing there, said Lynette Uses Arrow, vice chairwoman for the Cannon Ball District.
Basketball and volleyball are the two main sports in Cannon Ball. Aside from the outdoor basketball court and a community gym, which also serves as the post office, the district office and a place for the elderly, the community lacks facilities for youth sports.
Dakota Eagle, an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes who grew up in Cannon Ball, said she recognized the need for more and better places for youth to play sports, so she started a community service project to raise funds to replace the existing basketball court and build a volleyball court.
"I feel like, if we can find a way to fill that need, we just have to do it," said Eagle, a United Tribes Technical College student studying elementary education.
Eagle approached district officials with her proposal, and, from there, it developed into a full-blown plan to build what will be called the Cannon Ball Youth Sports Complex.
On Tuesday, a group of community members and construction crews tore out the old basketball court and leveled out an adjacent field for the volleyball court. The project has received about $18,000 in donations on its GoFundMe page.
"We didn't expect to even get started this soon," said Uses Arrow, adding she was shocked when she saw the amount of support the project has received. "I was just excited; it's going to be a reality."
Since reaching her initial goal, Eagle has expanded the project and aims to raise about $48,000 to build a recreation area with picnic tables and shelters, as well as a playground, and possibly other amenities.
Over the next few days, a group of Native youth and a local construction company called Ideal Construction and Contracting will finish updating the basketball court and build a volleyball court. From there, Eagle said she hopes to do more.
"One thing I'm learning is once you get out and ask, a lot of people want to be involved, a lot of people want to give their services and just give what they can," she said.
Joe Kuffe, of the Minnesota construction company Red Lake Builders Inc., was hired to fix the lagoons north of Cannon Ball, and he visited Tuesday to donate his time after work. He brought equipment to take out the basketball hoops, break up the concrete and level the courts.
The basketball court is in rough shape due to being built on lower elevation, Kuffe said. When it rains, all the water runs down to where the court is located, and, in the fall, it freezes then cracks and unevenness occurs.
"It's been a long time coming," Uses Arrow said of the repairs.
Ava Red Tomahawk said the original basketball court was constructed for youth in the community around 1974. Red Tomahawk, who helped build the court, said they used to hold basketball tournaments and play music there.
"This was a positive event that drew in other communities, as well," Tomahawk said in a text message. "I believe this project will benefit the community and their families."
On Tuesday evening, all that remained of the old basketball court was a pile of cement.
"(Tuesday) was sad, but it was also kind of exciting," said Uses Arrow.
Johnson, who stays in Cannon Ball during the summer with her mom, says she thinks the new Youth Sports Complex will encourage more kids to go outside.
"I love sports," said Johnson, who plays on her school's basketball, softball and volleyball teams. "(They) keep me in shape, keep me busy doing something."
Kainon Ayutapi, 15, plays basketball and runs long-distance in track at Legacy High School in Bismarck. He, too, spends his summers at Cannon Ball. On Tuesday, he helped to tear out the old basketball court and said he thinks the new space will benefit kids.
"I just want to see my community be changed," he said.
For more information on the project and to donate, visit www.gofundme.com/CannonballYouthSportsComplex.
(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or [email protected])
Read More of Today's AB Headlines
Subscribe to Our Daily E-Newsletter