Abby Roque prior to the start of the preliminary game against Team Switzerland at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 6, 2022 in Beijing.
This month is National Native American Heritage Month. A month to reflect and learn about the culture and history of Indigenous peoples. My hope is that people take the time to actually ask questions and research about the cultures. Just as importantly, for people to take the time to reflect on the history of Indigenous people in the United States, and why we need to remember that history as we move forward.
A piece of history I didn’t know leading up to the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 was that there had not previously been an Indigenous player on the U.S. women’s hockey team in the history of the Olympic Winter Games.
I was actually sitting in an interview during our centralization process when I was asked what it would mean to me if I made the final roster and became the first Indigenous woman to do it. I was a little in shock at that moment, not knowing that I didn’t know that I had the chance to be the first.
My answer to that question was that it was an honor but also disappointing. It was disappointing that there had never been an Indigenous player before me. I knew there hadn’t been much representation in women’s hockey, but I never put together that there had been no one to make that U.S. Olympic Team.
I wish there had been someone before me for young Indigenous girls and boys to look up to. It was, and is, an honor to be able to be that person now though. Representation is huge in order for people to believe they belong in hockey. I hope that kids who want to play hockey see me, and think, ‘She’s like us and made it, so why can’t I?’
Seeing the outpouring of support during and after the Olympics was overwhelming. The messages from families telling me how incredible it was for their children to be able to see someone like them playing at the highest competition in sport helped me a lot, especially at an Olympics where family and friends couldn’t attend. I felt the community behind me from halfway around the world. When I came home and was able to be in Indigenous communities, I had kids come up to me and tell me that they watched all of my games and that one day they want to be in the Olympics. It made me the happiest person in the world.
The Olympic Games are something I’ll remember forever. It was a dream that I never thought in my wildest dreams I could achieve, and yet there I was walking into the Opening Ceremony wondering if this was real life. When I got to throw on the Team USA jersey for the first time, I sat there for a moment and thought about how important that moment really was. Being the first indigenous woman to do it. I wanted to make all the people watching and supporting me proud. I hope I’ve done that, and I hope that we see more indigenous players on that roster in the future.
Hockey is for everyone, and anyone who wants to play should feel like they can.