Sports have played a pivotal role in American Indian tribal communities; in fact, many contemporary sports are rooted in traditional tribal sporting games. Lacrosse and surfing have long been attributed to indigenous peoples, while other games such as cross-country running, racquetball, cross-country skiing and canoeing, although not exclusive to the Americas, evolved independently. Native athletes quickly gravitated to historic sports like baseball, basketball, football and rodeo, and many American Indians have excelled in modern sports. Tribal communities continue to be heavily interested in and involved in sports, particularly basketball, rodeo and running.
Competing in sports in tribal communities teaches cooperation, consensus, compromise and teamwork, all of which are pillars of indigenous societies. Athletes learn how to develop strategies and solve problems, patience, discipline, perseverance, trust, empathy, respect and control. These games and play were integral in helping prepare young people for adult responsibilities, and assisted in mitigating conflict between individuals and communities alike.
There is also an artistic element to sports, which makes this a natural subject for discussion in that most human of institutions, museums. This exhibit features artwork, artifacts, history and discussions about sports and its role in tribal life.
George Aden Ahgupuk
Jamison Chas Banks
Daryl Ann Gaco
Frank Buffalo Hyde
G. Peter Jemison
Michael Dean Jenkins
Daniel Sunshine Reeves
Here is a list of selections from the collection of the Heard Museum Billie Jane Baguley Library and Archives that speak to American Indian athletes and identity through a variety of sports. Visitors are welcome during the library’s regular hours, 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., Mondays through Fridays, to view these or other items of interest in the library and archives collections. For more details or additional collection information, search the Online Catalog.
Download a PDF of the Recommended Reading List here.