Montileaux Teams with Nike to Help Native Americans

From the small South Dakota town of Tea to the Nike World Headquarters in Portland, Ore., senior track athlete Lindsey Montileaux affected thousands of lives this summer as a Nike N7 Intern.

Montileaux’s journey to the Nike World Headquarters began more than a year ago at the Association of American Indian Physicians (AAIP) conference in California. The theme of the 2013 conference was sports and fitness, describing how to intertwine the two to make a better tomorrow in Indian country. The AAIP sponsored a 5,000-meter fun run, which Montileaux won. Winning that race put her in connection with a Nike N7 ambassador.

“One of the Native representatives at the race was Alvina Begay, a professional distance runner who also happened to be an N7 ambassador,” Montileaux said. “After the race I was able to sit down with her and chat. I was excited, because she is one of my role models.”

Begay introduced Montileaux to Sam McCracken, the general manager and visionary for Nike N7 brand. Montileaux then proceeded to go through a four-part process of being accepted into the Ignite Internship program through Nike. At the end of May, Montileaux began working as the Nike N7 Intern. Nike’s N7 program began in 2000, when McCracken had the idea to sell Nike products to Native American tribes to support health promotion and disease prevention programs. The program has since expanded and the collection is available for purchase. The proceeds of N7 are given back to youth sport and physical activity programs in Native communities across North America.

“It was such a privilege to work under Sam [McCracken],” Montileaux, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, said. “I learned so much from his dedication to our people, hard work and perseverance. He is truly a role model for our future generations and will forever leave a lasting impact on Native youth across North America.”

Last summer, Montileaux spent her time in the office reaching out to the grant recipients from 2013 to gain insight on how Nike’s investment in their program has impacted the lives of Native youth. Through N7, Montileaux was able to work with Native American communities quite a bit. Outside of research, she assisted with different programs that the company has put on. One of Montileaux’s favorite programs was the Unity Conference, held in early July.

“We had more than 1,000 Native youth at the headquarters for the conference,” said Montileaux. “Interacting with the youth and seeing how important it is to get them active and keep them engaged at a young age is one of the most rewarding things I did at Nike.”

In the heart of Nike country, Montileaux had plenty of training partners and excellent facilities to prepare for her senior track season. Nearly all the interns are athletes, while the Nike World Headquarters provides its employees access to padded wood chip trails through the trees, a 400-meter track, fitness classes and Nike training club.

“I was surrounded by people who love sports,” Montileaux said. “I think the energy and the passion enabled me to get the most out of my summer training.”

Graduation next spring will not be the end of higher education for Montileaux. She hopes to attend medical school, allowing her to return to Native communities with a medical degree to help with health disparities or through Indian Health Services.

This story originally appeared in the Winter 2014/15 issue of The South Dakotan alumni magazine. Read the full issue.