Posts Tagged ‘Sam Bird’

Hall of Fame for the Birds

March 9, 2009

While we wait for the College Football Hall of Fame to properly acknowledge Lone Star Dietz’s contributions to the game, his old teammate and 1911 team captain, Sampson Bird, was inducted into the Montana Indian Athletic Hall of Fame. On December 12, Sampson Bird was one of 16 inductees in just the second class of the Hall of Fame. Sam Bird, Blackfeet, was the captain of Carlisle’s greatest team. His 1911 squad went 11-1, defeating both Harvard and Penn, two of the day’s greatest football powers. Two future College Football Hall of Famers, Jim Thorpe and Gus Welch, played alongside Sam, but he was elected captain for his leadership abilities. Quiet but stalwart, he led the Indians to their greatest height. Sam starred in other sports but it was in football that he made the greatest impact. Because of his versatility he was inducted as an all-around athlete rather than for a specific sport.

Sampson Bird was previously inducted into the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame. Some have asked about what happened to Indians’ athletic ability since 1930. Samson Bird’s life provides part of the answer. After finishing at Carlisle, Sam and his bride, a fellow Carlisle student, Margaret Burgess, Tlinget/Haida, returned to his family’s ranch in Montana where they raised their large family. Sam was a working cowboy as were his children. His grandchildren and great grandchildren, boys and girls alike, put their athletic abilities on display as modern-day rodeo stars. Sam’s athleticism can be seen as his descendants compete in the Indian Nation Finals Rodeo. Even their horses win prizes!

Also inducted into the Montana Indian Athletic Hall of Fame with Sampson Bird was Sam Bird Jr. The apples have indeed fallen closely to the tree.

Bird Family Rodeo Stars

May 23, 2008

People often ask what happened to the great Indian sportsmen. Carlisle produced world class athletes from the mid 1890s to WWI. Haskell picked up the mantle in the 1920s until financial cuts brought about by the Great Depression brought its competitiveness to an end. A few individuals surfaced from time to time but not with the frequency they did in the first two decades of the 20th century. Or so I thought. As it turns out we may have focused our attention in the wrong direction or too narrowly.

Apparently the Bird family holds a Memorial Day rodeo annually in honor of Sammie Bird, son of Carlisle star and captain of the great 1911 team, Sampson Bird. The avuncular Sam Bird bore the responsibility of running the family’s ranches immediately after returning from Carlisle. He looked after his children, grandchildren, siblings and their offspring.  It seems that many of the patriarch’s progeny channeled their athleticism toward rodeo competitions. A quick Internet search identified a Sam Bird, grandson of the Carlisle star, his nephew Dustin Bird, and his daughters Brittany and Sammy Jo Bird as current rodeo stars. There may be more.

It is my great hope that someone will read this, fill in the missing pieces and tell me what I have wrong. Then next year I can inform people enough ahead of the rodeo that some will be able to attend.