Champions: The Girls of Fort Shaw

Jessie Tarbox took this picture of the Fort Shaw girls’ basketball team in 1904 on their visit to St. Louis. Standing, from left: Rose LaRose, Flora Lucero, Katie Snell, Minnie Burton, Genevieve Healy, Sarah Mitchell. Seated, from left: Emma Sansaver, Genie Butch, Belle Johnson, Nettie Worth.

Jessie Tarbox took this picture of the Fort Shaw girls’ basketball team in 1904 on their visit to St. Louis. Standing, from left: Rose LaRose, Flora Lucero, Katie Snell, Minnie Burton, Genevieve Healy, Sarah Mitchell. Seated, from left: Emma Sansaver, Genie Butch, Belle Johnson, Nettie Wirth. Missouri History Museum, St. Louis

Amid the ruins of the Fort Shaw Industrial Indian Boarding School, a metal arch and granite monument honor ten Native American girls who overcame separation from their families and forced estrangement from their Native cultures to become the finest female basketball players in the country. Declared the “World Basket Ball Champions” in 1904, the girls from Fort Shaw also deserve praise for having triumphed over extraordinary life challenges.

In 1892 the federal government opened the Fort Shaw Indian Boarding School. Such off-reservation schools were designed to break the chain of cultural continuity by removing children from their tribal communities. The schools’ paramount educational objectives were cultural assimilation and English language fluency. Students were trained for employment in domestic services, industrial labor, and farming. Classes in music, theater, and physical education rounded out their instruction. Continue reading