Historian finds baseball in old American Indian schools
Information from: St. Cloud Times,
Minnesota: More than 100 years ago, Native American boarding schools
were run by religious orders and the federal
government. Their mission was to assimilate Indians into
white America. Young children were ripped from their families to live at schools
that stripped them of their languages, identities, families, and
David Laliberte from St. Cloud State University has uncovered a
remarkable story from the St. Johnís Industrial School.
The story is of preservation among some of these children forced to renounce
Ojibwe ways in favor of white culture. Itís a story of how the
tribal youth re-created themselves to not only survive,
"The story is about native people and their resilience and their adaptability,
to persevere through these schools and to use whatever cracks in the system they
can _ whatever tools they can _ to continue to endure as a people," Laliberte
said. "And baseball became I think, in many ways, one of those tools."
In the late 1880s and early 1890s, baseball was becoming the national
past time and another way to assimilate Native American
children into Euro-American life. At St. John's
Industrial School, Ojibwe students formed baseball teams to compete
against others from the area. Students organized and ran the teams themselves.
During games, they often used the Ojibwe language because other
teams couldn't understand it -- just like today's coaching signals
are designed to do.
This also enabled Ojibwe children to retain part of their culture when whites
were telling them to renounce it.
The existence of the
these Ojibwe teams was mostly unreported until Laliberte began researching Native
American boarding schools. His related article: "Myth, History and Indian
Baseball: An Unexpected Story of the Game in Minnesota" was
recognized by the McFarland-Society for American Baseball Research
as among this year's best articles or papers on the history or
biography of baseball.
Laliberteís research showed "how preservation of Indian culture would exist in
the framework of this school (designed) to pare down Indian cultures," said
Bruce McCann White, a renowned historian on Native American culture and director
of Turnstone Historical Research. "He opened my eyes to how important it was."
Baseball game at St Mary's Mission School, Red Lake: Minnesota