Sports, including ball and stick games, have always had an important place in traditional Native American culture. It was no surprise, then, that the tribes fully embraced baseball when the opportunity arose. This opportunity was largely due to the efforts of the Federal Indian Office, which hoped to use the game to “Americanize” the population. Teams sprung up on nearly every reservation and now, more than a century later, the love affair of baseball and Native Americans continues.
For some supremely talented individuals, baseball became a career and a path to success. Charles “Chief” Bender, a member of the Ojibwe tribe and graduate of Carlisle Indian Industrial School, explained: “The reason I went into baseball as a profession was that when I left school, baseball offered me the best opportunity both for money and achievement. I adopted it because I played baseball better than I could do anything else, because the life and the game appealed to me and because there was so little of racial prejudice in the game. There has been scarcely a trace of sentiment against me on account of birth. I have been treated the same as other men.”
This Helmar card of John Adelbert depicts him with a reservation team based near Salamanca, New York. Reservation organized baseball was extremely popular across the nation, with some traveling teams gaining regional fame. The card back features a team logo design that is very rare for the series.
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