1899 Carlisle Indians Team Photo

Richard Henry Pratt started the Carlisle school back in 1878. “Few of today’s football fans know that much of the game as we now recognize it was developed by a group of Native American kids who were coerced into a Pennsylvania assimilation camp called the Carlisle Indian Industrial School.” He set up the school with a vision of a gymnasium. He got the idea from when he was a lieutenant in the military. Pratt took prisoners to Cheyenne and taught them how to read and write. He wanted this in the Carlisle school but with a spot for physical education. Once the school opened up, students would travel to local festivals to play sports for the public to see. There are photographs taken by John Nicholas Choate showing the assimilation of the Native Americans over time. The sports that a lot of the children played was pony riding, foot racing, and shooting of the bow and arrow. In 1882 the boys played in the second annual exhibition of Philadelphia. There, these boys played football, a game that symbolized the progress at Carlisle. By the 1890s, boys started organizing football themselves and would play informal scrimmages against the nearby school, Dickinson college.1

In 1893, the school organized a team coached by W.G. Thompson. They played a two-game schedule. By 1896, the school had a regular college level schedule. By 1899, legendary Glenn S. “Pop” Warner was hired as coach.  During these years, Carlisle’s football team gained national coverage and fame.

  1. Bloom, John. To Show What an Indian Can Do: Sports at Native American Boarding Schools. University of Minnesota Press, 2000. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttt0kx.