The Road to Oklahoma City starts here.


Mississippi State’s Aspen Wesley Takes Pride in Her Native American Background

Top Stories

Aspen Wesley doesn’t know if Mississippi State’s game against South Carolina on Saturday will be a sellout. But judging by the calls and messages she’s received over the last few weeks, she is confident it will come close. 

Mississippi State is celebrating Native American Heritage Day at Nusz Park. Wesley, a senior pitcher for the Bulldogs, is a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

“I have had so many people reach out to me asking about it,” Wesley said. “They want to know how early they can come and get into the stadium. They want to know when the gates open.”

MSU is planning to have the reigning Choctaw Indian Princess, Cadence Raine Nickey, throw out the first pitch and 21 students from the Choctaw choir sing the national anthem. Fans will receive free rally towels decorated with traditional Choctaw patterns.

The 5-foot-3 Wesley grew up in the Pearl River community on the Choctaw Indian Reservation outside of Philadelphia, Mississippi, which is about an hour’s drive from the MSU campus in Starkville.

Wesley’s dad works for the tribe and her mom is a nurse at the Choctaw Health Center, which provides health and wellness services to the tribal population.

“Everyone knows everyone. It’s like one big family out there,” Wesley said. “Sports for Native Americans has been our life. I am pretty sure basketball is every Choctaw’s first love and I would say it was mine too. But I was not very tall, so I had to figure something else out and went with softball.”

Wesley immediately fell in love with the sport and did everything possible to try and reach her potential. She dreamed of playing at the college level and representing all Native Americans on the biggest stage.

“It was really hard on my parents,” said Wesley, a four-time Gatorade Mississippi Player of the Year while at Neshoba Central High. “They didn’t even know if we would make it to tournaments and if we could afford to pay for pitching lessons and stuff. But they made it happen somehow.”

Wesley’s experience isn’t unique among Native Americans, and it makes her success at a Power 5 program even more special to everyone back home.

“Growing up on the reservation, you didn’t have much. The families are really close and you can walk to your grandma’s house or your cousin’s house,” she said. “We played in the ditches and played in the woods. If we found a ball, we picked it up and threw it to each other. We were just outside all the time.”

Wesley has received some puzzling looks over the years when she tells people she is a member of the Mississippi band of Choctaw Indians.

“The first thing they usually ask is what kind of house do I live in. I am always confused by that,” she said. “They don’t mean it disrespectfully. They think we live in some gated community or not in regular houses. I tell them anyone can come visit. We have a museum, we have a casino and we have a water park. It’s a beautiful place and our culture is beautiful.”

Wesley returns to the reservation every summer to attend the annual Choctaw Indian Fair. The 73rd edition will take place this July and feature historical and culture displays, Choctaw food, social dancing, tribal arts and crafts, rides, musical acts and Choctaw stickball, which the tribe calls “the granddaddy of all field sports.”

Wesley’s appearance often causes a big stir among the fairgoers.

“I see all of them and they go crazy like I am this famous person, and I tell them, ‘No, I am just Aspen.’ But they still go crazy and tell me they want to be like me,” Wesley said. “It’s all good things and makes me happy, but I tell them they can do the same thing if they work hard and be your own self.”

Once her college career is complete, Wesley plans to give pitching lessons to young girls on the reservation. She wants to become a nurse like her mother and return to work at the Choctaw Health Center.

“I like helping people and I feel like that is a really good fit for me,” she said. “I want to go back and give back to our people. But I know it’s going to take some time to make that happen. Hopefully, I can go to nursing school and be a pitching coach somewhere back home at the same time.”

No matter how Saturday’s game turns out, Wesley is just grateful MSU is honoring Native Americans. She takes great pride in her heritage and wants to share it with others.

“It would mean so much if the little girls are there and see that you can come from the reservation and play college softball, or play any sport,” Wesley said. “You can do this no matter who you are or where you come from. I want to inspire them and for them to keep this going.”

  • This is one of a series of stories D1Softball will be doing throughout the 2023 season to highlight the efforts being made to promote the sport, grow the sport and invest in the sport.