Online Exhibitions

What's the Score? American Indians in Sports

William "Billy" Mills (Oglala Lakota) is the second Native American ever to be awarded an Olympic gold medal by winning the 10,000 meter race at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Photo by Fred G Braitsch, Jr. Used with permission from Stars and Stripes. (c) 1964, 2011 Stars and Stripes

Native Americans have a long tradition of sporting activities from trivial games to major sporting events.  These games and events played an important role in teaching and reinforcing community values and had a strong connection to social, spiritual, and economic aspects of Indian life.

The popularity of non-Indian sports grew on and off Indian reservations in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Native Americans quickly adapted to these sports, but also continued to play traditional sports like lacrosse.  In southern California, reservation softball and baseball teams were intensely competitive, drawing their respective communities to games for social interaction and entertainment.  Many of these ball players have received recognition for their achievements on the field. 

Cahuilla athletes such as John Meyers excelled in his position as catcher for both the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers.  But, baseball was not the only sport in which local Indians played.  Cahuilla people have distinguished themselves in both amateur and professional sports from golf to boxing.  

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