The Power of Sport and Community, for the Next Seven Generations

Sam McCracken and Izzy Yasana speak at the School of Business's Fireside Chat.
Sam McCracken and Izzy Yasana at the Fireside Chat

November 27, 2023
Gonzaga University News Service

What began with the rhythmic hum of a forklift turned into a story of passion and purpose.

In 1997, Sam McCracken, proud citizen of the Sioux and Assiniboine Tribes, began working for Nike within the bustling confines of an Oregon distribution warehouse center. Fueled by both his love for sport and for his vibrant community, Sam weaved a narrative to his supervisors that transcended mere business strategies. With confidence and a knack for storytelling, he proposed a sports-based business plan to address health disparities in tribal communities. Years later, this initiative would be called N7.

N7 sponsored Gonzaga’s men’s and women’s basketball teams and the players wore turquoise jerseys, a unifying color for the Native American community that represents friendship and fellowship to N7.

During Native American Heritage Month this year, McCracken accompanied Gonzaga alumna Izzy Yasana Hawley (’22) in a fireside chat with School of Business Administration students to talk about the origin of N7 and the initiative’s internship opportunities. Hawley received her M.B.A. in American Indian Entrepreneurship (MBA-AIE), which prepares leaders to support and manage sustainable business in Native communities. More than 50 grads of the Gonzaga AIE program have gained the skills to make a positive impact on their reservations and tribes. Hawley is the Unite/Value Brand Manager Nike and Young Athlete Brand Specialist for N7 and assisted in connecting N7 with Gonzaga.

In the fireside chat, McCracken told the story of N7. Although the “N” technically stands for “Nike,” he prefers to interpret it as “Native.” The "7” represents the Native American principle of considering the impact of our generation on the next seven generations. McCracken urged students to learn from their ancestors and the people who came before us.

His vision and calling to work on behalf of his community led to the Air Native shoe, designed around the specific morphology of the Native American foot. The shoe features a roomier toe box, fewer seams, and a thicker sock liner for added comfort. He also developed a fund to “inspire and enable participation in sport for indigenous youth.” The N7 Fund, a proponent for athletes and sports, has invested upwards of $10.8 million in nearly 300 organizations since 2009, with a focus on supporting youth access to sports and uplifting Indigenous communities.

N7 graciously sponsored Gonzaga’s men’s and women’s basketball teams in celebration of Native American Heritage Month. The teams wore turquoise jerseys, a unifying color for the Native American community that represents friendship and fellowship to N7.

Learn more about recent celebrations of Gonzaga's connection with our Native Community!