ROCKY BOY — After graduating from the University of Montana in 2018, John Sunchild became the first certified athletic trainer in Rocky Boy and established the very first athletic training position on his home reservation. In doing so, he was nationally recognized as an athletic training rising star and was a top six finalist for the award from Henry Schein Medical.
“I think it shows that I’m breaking barriers down, especially when it comes to reservation action health care,” said Sunchild. “My ultimate goal was to get back here to the reservation and help my own people.”
Following his graduation, Sunchild worked as an athletic trainer for the Flathead Indian Reservation in Polson for three years before returning home. He was brought back home due to the unfortunate event of his father being diagnosed with cancer, and he would eventually pass during that 2021 year. Sunchild remained home and continued to embrace his culture, choosing to give back and inspire the people in Rocky Boy.
“The thing that keeps me grounded is my culture here,” said Sunchild. “My father was a strong cultural leader in the community and that’s something I always keep grounded. That’s my base for everything, it’s the cultural identity that I have.”
Sunchild’s main goal now is to keep inspiring the youth in his community and hopefully get them into athletic training as well. But he also wants to go bigger than just his reservation, and even bigger than just Montana. He wants to provide his services for the other six reservations in Montana and hopefully get other states and reservations to follow along.
Sunchild gives a lot of credit for his success to his family, specifically his parents, wife, sister, and nephews. The support they gave him during his journey is what helped him make it through, and more importantly made him want to pay it forward.
“Now that I’ve felt that support throughout my whole life, having my parents right behind me, I do want to do that for my son and I do want to do the same for this community and others in the profession," he said. "These barriers are just invisible walls that people think are untouchable, and look where I am now. Operating on a reservation that’s never had athletic training before.”