Janee' Kassanavoid: Throws, Podiums, and Honoring Indigenous Roots

Janee' Kassanavoid: Throws, Podiums, and Honoring Indigenous Roots

Janee' Kassanavoid is the first Indigenous woman to win a medal at the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, by placing 3rd in Hammer throw with a 74.86m throw. She then bumped herself to 2nd place in 2023 with a 76.46m throw. We're proud to celebrate her, her achievements, and her heritage in celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day.

Use her code NAETHROWSHEAVYROCK to save 10% off your order and contribute to supporting her athletic career.

How did you get into athletics in general? What were you like as a kid?

My father was heavily involved in sports during his lifetime therefore he raised his children by starting us with sports from an early age. I am the youngest of three siblings. I remember watching them practice and play, every weekend being at the ball fields, and them playing catch with my dad. I was a very active kid, always playing outside and getting dirty. We grew up on the outskirts of Lawson, MO, where we had to take care of animals and maintain our land. My first organized sport was soccer when I was in Kindergarten. I was a cheerleader for my older brother’s football team, and then in 2nd grade, I played basketball on my sister’s 3rd/4th grade team that my dad coached. My dad taught us what is means to have a strong work ethic, to strive for perfection, and to always have a love for the game. My love, first love, was basketball.

How has your athletic path influenced your life path and career?

Sports have always been a huge part of my life. My father passed away when I was 8, what was left in all of us, apart of him that will always be in our hearts, is sports. To be disciplined, to be a competitor, to be resilient is how my athletic upbringing has influenced my life and my goals. I put 100% effort into everything that I do, no matter how hard or how long it takes, I was always taught to NEVER GIVE UP. Generations of Indigenous people have fought and survived, for us and for me to be here, therefore I could never GIVE UP, because of my people I have the power and the strength to accomplish any goal or any dream. 

How did you find your current sport?

I started Track & Field in 7th/8th grade. I did high jump, long jump, 200m, 4 x 200m, shot put and discus, basically whatever I was asked to do, to score points for my school. In high school, I cycled through 4 events but stuck with the shot put and discus throughout my career. I only spent the 2-3mos in the spring working with the implements- very little technical training, strength training, or even having a coach present at practices.

Shot Put: 39’3

Discus: 127’10

I didn’t know about the large scale of Track & Field as a sport, aside from the Olympics, until I got to college. My freshman year at Johnson County Community College (JCCC) is where my coach introduced me to the hammer, after being recruited for the shot/disc. I had no clue what it looked like better yet, how to throw it. In late August, my first session with it consisted of continuous winds and continuous turns down a track lane until I was no longer dizzy or nauseous. I threw the hammer a total of maybe 4-5mos and ended up being the NJCAA Outdoor National Champion, with a throw of 53.37m. From there I transferred to Kansas State University my sophomore year and saw great progressions throughout my collegiate career. Now, I am the 3rd Best All-Time in the U.S and 6th best All-Time in the World with a 78.00m PR and the 2023 SILVER Medalist coming up on an Olympic year in 2024. Very thankful and very hopeful.

What is your favorite part of your sport?

My favorite part about the hammer is that it is an individual sport. It takes a great deal of patience, power, and athletic ability. It is the MOST challenging sport I have ever done. Therefore, the competitor in me from when I started, wanted to be the best. Throwing in general is very developmental. There are so many areas to perfect to continue to see progress, strength, speed, balance, power, coordination, and flexibility. Ultimately, the amount of intrinsic motivation and hard work you bring to the table will determine your success in this sport. It is not easy.

What is your favorite part of training?

My favorite part about training is that it is always an opportunity to get better. I am grateful to be in a position now to solely dedicate my time, energy and focus on training. Before, that wasn’t the case. Through high school, college, and my first three years as a post-collegiate thrower I was working part-time to support myself financially. Training and sport are the best spaces for me to get away from life’s struggles, to destress, and to continue to have an active lifestyle- with movement.

Tell us about your favorite competition memory.

My favorite competition memory is my HISTORY MAKING moment in Eugene, OR, at the 2022 World Championships. Winning bronze and becoming the 1st Native American woman to medal at the Track & Field Championships. This moment was very surreal, a moment to take a deep breath and know that all of the hard work had paid off. To know that my ‘why’, is much bigger than me. To create spaces for Indigenous people, to inspire the next generation of young athletes, and to empower woman- that strong is beautiful. In that moment to embody such beauty, strength, and resilience- throwing the hammer far- but being proud to be Native American and know that it is just the beginning of making history for my people. A LEGACY.

Tell us about training and competing as the first Indigenous woman to medal at the Track & Field championships.

I am proud to step into the role of leadership and representation. In most sports and especially Track & Field, other than the greats, Jim Thorpe and Billy Mills, Native American athletes did not see a lot of success. There weren’t a lot of role models or leaders to give the youth hope and know that achieving greatness is possible. To have the opportunity to continue to train and compete, as one of the best in the world, to have the love and support of my people behind me, strengthens and empowers me so much more. I am honored to be the 1st but the goal is to not be the last.

How does it feel to be a representative of your family and ancestors?

KASSANAVOID, as a member of COMANCHE NATION is how I represent myself, my family, and my people as an athlete. As an indigenous woman, it is an honor to carry my culture and traditions with me as I continue to embark on my journey; to know that in my blood- I am strong, resilient, and powerful. Representation means everything to me and to the future of our people, to continue to break barriers and create spaces that we have never been before. It is both honoring and humbling. 

What do you wish people knew about your story or about your family and ancestors?

WE ARE STILL HERE. For generations our people have suffered and still suffer, live with the trauma from what happened and continues to happen to our people, our ancestors. Indigenous men, women, and children have died fighting to protect our land and to protect our culture. Honor their place in and contributions to the shared story of America. When you SEE ME, YOU SEE US.

How does your culture impact the way you approach your sport?

My culture contributes to sport through my fortitude and my resilient upbringing. For many native communities, sport is an important part of instilling values around health and fitness in children. Staying active in creating new ways to improve strength, coordination, and dexterity helped our ancestors both spiritually and physically over the years. Many indigenous people have given back to their communities and made them proud through sports participation and advocacy. While colonizers have done their best to strip a strip of who we are and our homelands and resources, and our way of life, no one can take from indigenous people’s their agility, fitness, camaraderie, and amazing physical drive.

If people want to support Indigenous business or learn about Indigenous culture and history, where would you recommend them to go?

Center for Native American Youth- Nonprofit Organization- for education and advocacy serving Native and Indigenous Youth

Indigenous Peoples Movement- Community Organization-a global coalition bringing awareness on issues affecting indigenous people from North and South America, Oceania, Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean

Indian Country Today- News & Media Website

IllumiNative- Nonprofit Organization- a native woman-led racial and social justice organization, building power for native people by amplifying native voices, stories, and issues.

Cheek Bone Beauty Cosmetics INC- Indigenous Roots, Sustainable by Nature.

Indigenous Intentions- supporting intentional and purposeful people- culture, awareness, and healing.

NDN Collective- Nonprofit Organization- Defend, Develop, and Decolonize- a national organization dedicated to building Indigenous Power

Attending local Pow Wows, Native Events & supporting local business owners, artists, and communities goes a long way. It’s important to know the tribes around you and the land territories you live on.

Want to support Janee's career and follow along? Follow her on Instagram here.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.