Warrior, noun. A brave or experienced soldier or fighter (especially in former times).
Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community member Russell Nakishi (Onk Akimel O’odham/Tohono O’odham/Choctaw), 31, grew up in Springfield, Missouri, nearly 1,200 miles from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. His last name was previously Davis, but in 2013 he desired to take on his great-grandfather’s traditional Choctaw name, Nakishi, which means “the one who carries weapons.”
Nakishi’s family likes to think of him as a modern-day warrior, “one who is determined, disciplined and walks a good path in life.” Nakishi is the son of Ben Davis and Community member Noreen Enas Davis and the grandson of late Community members Jonathan and Rebecca Enas and the late Jesse and Ennessie Davis of Wright City, Oklahoma. His aunts are Marilyn Robles, Dorine Andrews and Brenda Enas, and he has one uncle, Burleigh Enas, all of Salt River.
Nakishi attended Evangel University in Springfield, and in April 2014 he completed a year of study at the KCP International Language Institute in Tokyo, Japan. He later made his way to Missouri State University, and in May he earned a bachelor of science in commerce and Japanese language.
Nakishi’s family recalled his love for knives, swords, and bows and arrows from a young age. When he was young he dreamed of making it to the Olympics in archery.
“It’s always been a dream as a kid to go to the Olympics, and growing up I always thought that I could do it with a compound bow, which is what I use for 3D archery,” Nakishi said. “But as I got older, I found out that [Olympic rules state] you have to use a recurve bow, and not a compound bow.” After competing in 3D archery for approximately 17 years, he switched to Olympic recurve and has been on a new journey since. Along the way he has competed in and won many archery tournaments throughout the Midwest.
Nakishi said, “As an athlete, making it to the Olympics has always been one of my dreams and my goal. It wasn’t until April [of this year], when I saw a job position open for USA Archery, I thought, ‘This is a great opportunity for me.’ I have been an archery instructor in my hometown of Springfield for about four years. I really enjoy helping people learn how to shoot and enjoy watching them succeed. That’s what got me excited. So instead of being at the Olympics as an athlete, I figured I could get to the Olympics as a coach.”
Aside from archery, Nakishi also dreamed of earning a college degree to make his family and mother proud. “My mom made me promise; she said, ‘You have to finish.’ So for six years I worked, and one morning I woke up and knew I had to fulfill the promise I made to my mom. ‘I have to finish,’ I told myself. That’s what made me go back to school. I kept my promise to my mom,” said Nakishi.
As hard as the road might have been, Nakishi was able to juggle competing in archery tournaments and being a college student at the same time. Like any college student would say, he said that hard work does pays off, no matter how long the process might be.
Nakishi’s parents always encouraged him to do what he loves and to choose a career he would enjoy. This way he would not feel like he was going to a job, but instead going to work at something he enjoys and loves doing.
A few weeks prior to his college graduation, Nakishi applied for the high-performance assistant coach position with USA Archery at the United States Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California. For this position he competed against people from throughout the United States. The good news came a week before graduation—he was hired! Nakishi accepted the position, moved to California five days after graduation and immediately started working at the OTC. He still hopes to go to the Olympics one day, but as a coach instead of a competitor.
Now that Nakishi is in California, he hopes to find time to visit with his family here in the Community. His last visit was in March. “I love my family and will try to find time to come visit,” he said.
“I think everyone has a dream inside them. If they don’t know what that dream is, that’s what they need to find first. Once they have a clear vision, then they can start working on accomplishing that dream. It’s not easy, it is hard, and sometimes it may take more time. But as long as you have that dream within you, everything you do should be progress towards your ultimate goal,” said Nakishi.
“Once you know what you want to do, or what your purpose is, you can apply yourself so much better and so much more. That’s when you realize you’re there for a purpose, not just because it’s the next step. Before jumping into education, know what you want to get out of it.”