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Boarding School Sports

Carlisle students exercising in the school gym, 1879

Courtesy Smithsonian Institute National Anthropological Archives. Photographic Lot 81-12 06843300

Carlisle School

The first formal football competition at Carlisle School was in 1893.  In 1897 Carlisle had six wins and four losses and in 1898 had five wins and four losses.  This unexpected success against the nation’s best football teams led to a great deal of national recognition for the Carlisle School.

The School’s most famous alumnus is Jim Thorpe (Sac and Fox) who is considered one of the most versatile athletes in modern sports.  

Haskell Institute

Haskell teams played nearly every famous team in the nation and won a majority of the games.  The 1944 football team won all its games and the 1946 team won all but one.  Boxing emerged as a prominent sport at Haskell and many championships were won in amateur competition; among these was the National Championship in Golden Gloves won by Chester Ellis in 1939.  Famous alumni from Haskell Institute include Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills and New York Yankee John Levi.

The coming together of Indian youth from different tribes at boarding schools marked a new phase in Indian relations.  Indian groups had lived separately before the schools were established and had competed against each other in games or in social strife.  But now combined Indian teams competed against non-Indians on a regular basis and led to the success of the boarding school teams.  The spirit of the Indian community was lifted by these successes.

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