By Joshua Woosypitti
Recently Haskell Indian Nations University lost a member of the community, Coach Phil Homeratha in late December 2011 with his personal battle with cancer. In response to this tragic loss the alumni, faculty, staff, athletics and numerous tribal communities are now mourning the departure of a man that embodied what Haskell is all about
Located on the Lawrence, Kansas college campus, his life was celebrated and remembered through different honoring ceremonies held within the Haskell powwow circuit, Haskell Athletics Department and the campus gathered on February 04, 2012 to give back memories that held Homeratha as the face of Haskell Athletics for various decades.
His 40 years of active service to tribal people has made him a part of an institution that changed its focus from assimilating values of native people to uplifting and celebrating their individual talents. Photos Courtesy of Lorene Williams
Haskell Indian Nations University has been blessed to have a spirit such as Homeratha to be a part of a legacy that names many Native Americans to a standard that has been the driving force of becoming your best in the various competitions that embodies athletics.
According to the Haskell Athletic mission “Within the context of our university structure, Athletics’ builds respect, responsibility, sportsmanship, integrity, and service leadership,” this statement was nothing but the epitome of Homeratha’s career.
Throughout his career he taught and served thousands of tribal members whether it was inside the classroom or on the various competition playgrounds where many knew him best. His ability to give enlightened critiques was one way many players found his humor or even if it was his charismatic smile that helped him become personable with many that were coached by him.
A year ago Coach Phil Homeratha a member of the Otoe-Missouri tribe, the long time educator, athletic director and coach retired from Haskell Indian Nations University. From this point his battle with cancer became noticeably public as the slender gentleman graced the Coffin Sports Complex basketball court for the last time.
Through social networking sites, Haskell Alumni Association and many active players of Haskell Athletics, he was given a homecoming that was partial in paying back the respect given to many past players who were present during his last games at Haskell. Many grieving alumni gave their personal view of Homeratha. Some even are a part of the campus today. When the memorial service was at the forefront of many individuals’ calendars, everyone that could attend was greeted with a program that shared a statement from the loved coach.
“I came with a plan, knowing I would always represent the underdog, coaching the underprivileged player and the underprepared student. Yet, I have always walked away saying, ‘I did the best I could; I played as hard as I could, and it came out pretty good.’ I can live with that,”
Phil Homeratha (Memorial Service Program).
This statement adorned the program for his memorial service along with a photo displaying his recognizable smile.
It was a featured statement from Tribal College Journal in November of this past year “Homeratha Learned to ‘Always Take Them Water’ an article depicting his background at Haskell Institute to the glory days of Haskell Athletics.
The article draws a concise picture of Homeratha for his personal endurance to fight cancer through the philosophy taught to him by his family. The article was written by past educator Trish Reeves and current English Instructor Lorene Williams.
As of now the speakers from the memorial service are now living their daily lives, but the messages that were spoken will eventually fade from memory. The lasting remarks from past players, current instructors and iconic individuals from Indian Country brought together a campus that can now celebrate the legacy of Phil Homeratha.
This legacy, the driving force of Haskell Athletics was named into the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame of Lawrence, Kansas and Haskell Indian Nations University.
The respect, responsibility, sportsmanship, integrity, and service leadership is now welcoming home a person that embodied the values of Haskell Athletics.
For more information over the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame or Haskell Athletics please visit www.haskellathletics.com or you may call (785)749-8459.