Posts Tagged ‘Haskell Indian Nations University’

1903 Carlisle-Utah Game

April 16, 2011

Not too long ago, I was asked why Carlisle chose to play Utah on its post-season trip to California. After all, the teams had no history of playing each other and the University of Utah didn’t have the reputation of being a big-time football power. So, why did Pop Warner arrange to play its only game ever with Utah on December 19, 1903?

The first hint that Carlisle was planning post-season play that year was a piece in the November 13 edition of The Red Man and Helper ironically titled “Haskell’s Well Wishes” in which Haskell Superintendent H. B. Peairs was quoted as saying, “We hope now to see Northwestern [Carlisle’s last regular season opponent] beat Carlisle, as Carlisle has refused for three years to give us a game, saying that we were not in their class. If Northwestern beats them, they may come down a peg or two.”

Carlisle’s unattributed response probably came from Warner: “Haskell has never asked Carlisle for a game of football until after our schedule has been completed. We have never asserted that Haskell was not in Carlisle’s class. A comparison of the records of the two teams makes that unnecessary. We congratulate Haskell upon her good showing in the game against Chicago.” This response implies that, if Carlisle was considering post-season games, the schedule had been set already and Haskell had asked too late to get on the schedule. These words could be interpreted two different ways:

1) The comments were meant to be complimentary to Haskell as their win-loss records were comparable to Carlisle’s at that time.

2) It was a bit of a shot because, even though Haskell had a good record, its competition wasn’t at the same level as Carlisle’s. Also, Haskell had just lost to Chicago 17-11 where Carlisle had a winning record against contenders for being the Champions of the West.

Carlisle and Haskell would finally meet the next year, in 1904, but that is another story.

To be continued…

Jim Thorpe Fitness Center

March 16, 2009

Not long ago it was my pleasure to inform readers that Carlisle, PA isn’t the only town to have Jim Thorpe on a mural. Now I can share that Carlisle Barracks isn’t the location of the only Jim Thorpe Fitness Center. Haskell Indian Nations University (HINU, Haskell Institute in Big Jim’s day) also has a Jim Thorpe Fitness Center. In fact, Haskell has had a Jim Thorpe Fitness Center for a couple of years – in a building constructed and named after the great athlete 50 years ago. A sign that formerly adorned the building’s exterior now hints to the building’s former use now hangs inside the building.

On Monday, March 9, 2009, Robert W. Wheeler, author of “Jim Thorpe: World’s Greatest Athlete,” gave a talk at the re-dedication of the Jim Thorpe Fitness Center as part of the commemoration of the 125th anniversary of Haskell’s founding. The building formerly known as the Jim Thorpe Power Plant now houses machines designed to help humans maintain their muscle tone rather than machines to eliminate the need for human muscle power.

In the audience was someone who also is familiar with Carlisle. Before joining the faculty of the University of Kansas, Bernie Kish was executive director for the College Football Hall of Fame for a decade. I met Dr. Kish there when researching Lone Star Dietz. Bernie recalled his time in Carlisle:

“I was a career military officer, serving in the US Army for over 29 years. In 1981, I attended the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks—the site of the Carlisle Indian School—in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. It was my privilege to play basketball in the same gymnasium and run laps on the same track as Thorpe, Lone Star, and Gus Welch. The biggest annual extra-curricular event at the War College is Jim Thorpe Sports Day. It is competition in ten sports among the military’s senior service schools, the Army, Navy and Air Force War Colleges plus the National War College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. For two days, these future generals forget their military studies and compete for the honor of taking home the Jim Thorpe Sports Day Trophy. I was the Athletic Director for the 1982 Sports Day and in that capacity came to know Carl Thorpe, Jim’s son, quite well. I still treasure the photo of Carl and me presenting the Sports Day awards.”


Returning Indians to Prominence in Football

October 6, 2008

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

Radio Tour Kicks off in Lawrence, Kansas

August 21, 2008

With the release of a new book starts another adventure – radio interviews. The first one I’m doing for Doctors, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs is with Warner Lewis on his Lewis at Large Smart Talk Radio show out of Lawrence, Kansas. The interview is being taped and will be aired the week of August 25 to 31 on KLWN Lawrence, KFRM Clay Center, KLKC Parsons and possibly other stations in eastern Kansas. Warner interviewed me two years ago on his sports talk show after Keep A-goin’: the life of Lone Star Dietz was released. It was a great experience. There are strong ties between Carlisle, PA and Lawrence, KS beside the fact that Lone Star Dietz played for Carlisle Indian School and coached Haskell Institute (now Haskell Indian Nations University) in Lawrence. When athletics were deemphasized at Carlisle, the leadership mantle was passed to Haskell where, during the 1920s and very early 1930s, the Fightin’ Indians were, as Ray Schmidt described, the lords of the prairie.


But more than the mantle passed from Carlisle to Haskell. Students also transferred to Haskell as well, Nick Lassaw for one. Nick was perhaps better known by the moniker given to him when he played for the Oorang Indians: Long Time Sleep. However, transferring between the two government Indian schools did not start at that time; it had a long tradition. The most notable example was after the 1904 Carlisle-Haskell game held at the St. Louis World’s Fair, the only time the schools played each other, when eight football players including the Guyon and Hauser brothers and several others came east to play for the stronger team.


There are other reasons that make Lawrence an appropriate to kick off my radio tour. Bernie Kish, Executive Director of the College Football Hall of Fame, 1995-2005, now lives in Lawrence. Bernie wrote a forward for Doctors, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs and I’m waiting for him to write a history of Haskell.