Lynx, Lt. Gov. Flanagan welcome Alissa Pili to Minnesota with surprise reception

For Alissa Pili, her Samoan-American and Native American heritage means everything to her.

“A lot of Indigenous and Polynesian girls don’t get to see that role model and I’m just so blessed to be in the position to be that for them,” Pili said during the WNBA draft. “I’m representing them with pride.”

Pili’s cultural pride isn’t lost on the Lynx.

That’s why for her welcome to Minnesota moment, the Lynx made sure the No. 8 overall pick connected with the local Indigenous and Polynesian community.

Of course, this was all a big surprise to Pili.

With Lynx staffers cheering her on, Pili stepped on the Target Center floor for the first time on April 24 and was greeted by local members of the Indigenous and Polynesian community, including Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe.

Pili was presented with traditional necklaces, beaded earring and a blanket, spoke to the community and received a passionate message of support from Flanagan.

“There’s a lot of weight on your shoulders, but we’re all going to help you carry that,” Flanagan told Pili. “I got your back.”

Former Minnesota Vikings player Esera Tuaol was also on hand and invited Pili to take part in a traditional Samoan dance.

“It meant a lot. Having people around you who really care about what’s just important to you and they showed that with welcoming me with things from my background and my cultural,” Pili said about the welcome. “And just getting to meet everybody, it was a super cool experience.”