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Chris Wondolowski represents Native Americans at World Cup

Native American Chris Wondolowski at FIFA World Cup
Native American Chris Wondolowski at FIFA World Cup
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Striker Chris Wondololowski, who is representing the United States at FIFA World Cup in Brazil, is the first tribally enrolled Native American to ever participate at the World Cup. Wondolowski, star goalscorer for the San Jose Earthquakes, is half Kiowa, a formerly nomadic tribe centered in Carnegie, Oklahoma. Wondolowski is a member of that community, where he grew up attending Powwows and learning history.

Wondo, as he's called by MLS fans, also has Kiowa name - Bau Daigh (pronounced bow dye) - which means “warrior coming over the hill." That Kiowa name is tattooed across his chest. His presence at the World Cup has delighted his 12,000 fellow Kiowa tribal members and drawn many other Native Americans into the game of soccer, for which there is no word in the Kiowa language. But now the tribal members passionately cheer for Bau Daigh and the U.S. Men's National Team.

Wondolowski, 31, began his professional career in 2005 with the San Jose Earthquakes, then played with the Houston Dynamo until 2009, when he returned to the Quakes and was named Most Valuable Player. Wondolowski then won the MLS Golden Boot for most goals scored in a season, both in 2010 and 2012, first with 18 goals and then an MLS record-tying 27 goals. Now, Wondo ranks 11th in all-time MLS goalscoring with a whopping 84 league goals. Wondo's salary skyrocketed and he's now an official Designated Player and an ambassador with Nike's N7 program, which brings sports to Native American communities.

Since his first U.S. National Team goal in July 2013, Wondo has scored five international goals and head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is banking on the Kiowa tribal member to score more for the USA at World Cup.

“Chris’ role on the U.S. team is probably the most important role of all because he is an original American,” Steve Quoetone, director of the Kiowa Nation Youth Activities Sports Club, told Aljazeera America. “Not only do the Kiowas follow him, but all the other Native Americans across the United States and Canada are following him. So he has a pretty big audience, but he also has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders.”

The Kiowa can be traced back to the 1700s in British Columbia in Canada. They then migrated south through the Great Plains, under chiefs Lone Wolf and Santana, who fought against Custer and Sheridan. Now, Kiowas make up less than a half of 1 percent of Native Americans, who constitute less than 1 percent of the U.S. population.

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