Native American Football


Oct 27

You’re probably all aware of the controversies over the naming of our football teams and how Native Americans would like us to stop using terms that stereotype their culture. Personally, I find it ironic that we’d name our sports teams after a people we tried to wipe off the face of the earth. Sure, we acknowledge that they fought bravely against overwhelming numbers of weaponized troops, and they did win one of the biggest battles in their history at the Little Bighorn, but there is just too much irony that I cannot help but recall a line from the movie Harold and Maud: “I say get the Krauts on the other side of the fence where they belong. Let’s get back to the kind of enemy worth killing, and the kind of war this whole country can support.”

What you’re going to learn about here is something little known by most, so, let’s go.

You’ve all heard of “hominy,” I’m sure. It’s hulled corn from which grits are made. Hominy is considered classic Southern American cuisine, but the term, hominy, is from the the Powhatan language, meaning “prepared maze,” or Chickahominy. And the dish is actually a native dish, eaten in many indigenous American cultures.

Well, there’s a town in Oklahoma called Hominy, and back in the twenties and thirties, Hominy, Oklahoma had a Native American football team. It was an all Native American football team, that played regionally and also traveled about the country.

The team always had money problems, but found backers on 1925 and got uniforms and travel expenses. Members of the team were from different tribes, though the majority were from the Osage tribe, out of Hominy, OK.

Like most teams, they had their rivalries, especially from other native teams close to them. And since they seemed to win all their games, competing teams would slip in “ringers” from colleges and give them assumed names.

The players averaged about $150 per game, but sometimes had to take less, though management always made sure the players were paid. Some of the players became famous, like John Levi who was known to drop kick a ball through the goalposts from the 50 yard line.

And when the depression hit, to draw crowds to their away games, the players got into traditional dancing clothes and put on a pow-wow, with all the works: the drumming, dancing, regalia, and whoops and chants.

However, their biggest game is one for the history books.

They were not only undefeated, they’d never tied a game. And they were about to be challenged by the New York Giants.

In early December of 1927, the Giants took home the NFL Championship Trophy after defeating the New York Rangers. Three weeks later, they traveled to Pawhuska, Oklahoma to face the Hominy Indians. On the day after Christmas, they met in front of about 2,000 fans, and the Indians beat the Giants by a score of 13 – 6.

This was all new to me until one of my mentors on Twitter put this out. His name is Brett Chapman, and you can follow him on Twitter: @brettachapman.

He has an amazing ancestry. And you can read about him at Wikipedia. You will learn that he is descended from the first Native American to be defined as a “person.”

Nothing to do with football, but just a reminder of how we treated our indigenous people.