Playing for the World: 1904 Fort Shaw Indian Girls' Basketball Team

 
  
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ABOUT PLAYING FOR THE WORLD: 1904 FORT SHAW INDIAN GIRLS' BASKETBALL TEAM

1904 girls basketball teamThe Fort Shaw Indian Boarding School, located in the Sun River Valley outside Great Falls, Montana, was one of the first schools in the state to feature basketball as a recreational sport for girls. In 1902, 10 young women formed a team that would become renowned for its skill, tenacity, and mature dignity — on and off the court. The team members, who came from Indian nations in Montana and Idaho, dealt with racial and gender stereotypes, but their talent and style of play began drawing large crowds of enthusiastic fans.

In 1904, the team was invited to attend the St. Louis World’s Fair and live in the Indian School Exhibit Hall. They paid their way with numerous basketball games, after which they gave special presentations in native dress, often reciting stanzas of Longfellow’s Hiawatha to enthralled crowds. At the World’s Fair, the team played in exhibition games, defeating all their opponents. School officials, working with Montana journalists, proclaimed the team “Champions of the World.” But when the Fort Shaw team returned to Montana, the story of their sports accomplishments quickly faded — their uniforms, photographs, and a small trophy from St. Louis were lost over time.

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