Returning Indians to Prominence in Football

Coming across a 1937 newspaper article in which Gus Welch launched a movement to return Indians to prominence in football. He was quoted as saying:


“The Indian is disappearing from football just like he disappeared from the forests. There used to be a lot of good Indian athletes—Thorpe, Guyon Mount Pleasant, Sweet Corn, Jim Levi, Tiny Roebuck and Mayes McLain. Pop Warner developed a dozen great ones at Carlisle and Haskell Institute produced a number. But they are fast dwindling. Most of the Indians we see in athletics today are impostors, or at best half-breeds. And they might as well be cigar store Indians in so far as I’m concerned.”


The article went on to say that Gus and his wife had recently adopted a baby girl. He insisted that the next child would be a boy adopted from one of what he considered the two fiercest tribes.


“I’m going to visit the Sioux reservation first and look over their crop of babies. If they don’t have anything to my liking, I’m going to pay the Cheyennes a call. I’m determined to find a real all-American and restore the Indian to his proper place in football.”


You already know that didn’t work out, but did you know that Bacone College attempted to revive Indian football after it was de-emphasized at Haskell Institute during the Great Depression? It was a natural thing for the little Muskogee, OK college to do because the school’s original name when it was founded in 1880 at the Cherokee Baptist Mission in Tahlequah by Almon C. Bacone was Indian University. Oklahoma’s longest-running institution of higher education was renamed Bacone Indian University in 1910. Later, its board of trustees gave it its current name. An irony is that Bacone and Haskell, both now four-year schools, play each other.

Gus Welch between Possum Powell and Jim Thorpe

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