Honoring Joe Bergie

I previously mentioned receiving communications from descendants of the Carlisle Indians. This week an email came from Joe Bergie’s oldest surviving granddaughter discussing his induction into the Montana American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame in 2020. Because of Covid, like many other things, his enshrinement was delayed until 2021. She credited her cousin, Carol Gilham, with doing the considerable amount of work necessary to get a star athlete who played his last game a century ago recognized.

Joe Bergie was not a minor football player at Carlisle, an entire chapter of Doctors, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs is devoted to him. Space doesn’t permit including all of that here. I’ll just hit the high spots. Joe arrived at Carlisle in 1910 and played on the scrubs as he learned the rudiments of the game. He played center, an important position for teams employing the single- and double-wing formations, on the great 1911 and 1912 teams. He excelled at defense and carried the ball well when given the opportunity at fullback. Pop Warner considered him to be the greatest center to ever don a Carlisle uniform. In the spring, he also starred at lacrosse when it replaced baseball at Carlisle.

After leaving Carlisle, Joe played on several pre-NFL semi-pro teams, even serving as the coach while playing for one of them. World War I, in which he served in the Army and was shipped overseas, where he remained until January of 1919. After his discharge, a hand injury ended both his football career and his brief turn as a professional wrestler.

Author’s note. A guy in my outfit in the service was named Bergie. We pronounced it Bergee. Recently, I was informed the proper pronunciation is Berjee.

Joe Bergie in Carlisle Indian School football uniform.


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