How Native Americans Made Basketball Their Own

Nowhere today are people more passionate about basketball than in Native American communities. Why? The hoops seen outside most homes and gathering places on western reservations speak to basketball’s cultural significance for Native peoples. For them, the sport is more than a pastime. It has become a modern expression of indigenous identity and pride, and a glue that bonds families and tribes more tightly together. It might seem peculiar that a sport invented by Dr. James Naismith, a white man, has become so dear to Native people, especially since their ancestors first encountered it during hard times, in hard places. Native youths began learning basketball just prior to the turn of the 20th century while confined to government and missionary-operated boarding schools—or “Indian schools” as they were known. These institutions aimed to erase Native identities, and left many youths traumatized. Yet from these schools sprung a renewed athletic zeal that helped invigorate Native communities in times of struggle. The story … Continue reading How Native Americans Made Basketball Their Own