Forethoughts: The Lost of the Meskwakis

Tiger Woods’ entry into the world of golf course design makes for a compelling cover travel feature. His college roommate’s foray into the same business makes for a more profound story.

I’m referring to four-time PGA Tour winner Notah Begay III, the Native American who in addition to broadcasting tournaments on The Golf Channel and NBC is giving tribal nations a voice and bringing to life their vision through his design company, NB3 Consulting.

His first two layouts, Sequoyah National and Firekeeper—developed, respectively, with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina and the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation of Kansas—have received high praise in national publications for their creativity, playability, shot values and strategy. They also reflect his commitment to the cultural survival and economic self-sufficiency of Native Americans.

Those qualities and more come into play at Sewailo, Begay’s latest course, which sits on Pascua Yaqui tribal land 15 minutes southwest of downtown Tucson. It’s one of the myriad superb Casino Del Sol Resort amenities in which I had the pleasure of partaking less than a month before the course’s November opening. An account of my visit appears on page 66, but my reason for writing about it here is personal.

Despite my Italian surname, I am one-eighth Native American. My maternal grandfather, an Iowan named George Campbell, left home at the age of 12, shortly after his Meskwaki mother died and his Scots father married a woman who was not too keen about her swarthy stepson. To the best of my knowledge, George never returned to Iowa or maintained a connection to his family or tribe. He eventually moved to New York, married my grandmother, a German immigrant, and thrived.

I was a wee bairn when he died. While his Scots blood might explain my interest in golf, his Meskwaki side intrigues me more. But just as I’ve yet to make the requisite golfer’s pilgrimage St. Andrews, I’ve never visited Iowa, where the Meskwaki own and operate a bingo casino hotel. There’s no golf course—are you listening, Notah?—and from what I’ve heard from cousins who have visited, tribal members are justifiably wary of gold-digging strangers looking to cash in on questionable tribal roots.

I’m curious, not covetous. But I can fully understand their suspicions—even if they hinder me from learning about my greatgrandmother’s culture. Unlike Notah Begay, who uses his stature and talents to help improve the lives of all Native Americans (see, I’ve never acted on that part of my heritage, aside from chiding friends who grew up in D.C. and Cleveland about their offensive sports mascots.

In an issue that takes us to San Diego, Cabo, Puerto Rico and Santa Fe, this column brought you to a completely different place. But as even the most well-traveled person knows, the furthest journey often is the one within.

Colorado AvidGolfer is the state’s leading resource for golf and the lifestyle that surrounds it. It publishes eight issues annually and proudly delivers daily content via www.coloradoavidgolfer.comJon Rizzi is the founding editor and co-owner of this regional golf-related media company producing magazines, web content, tournaments, events and the Golf Passport.