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Fort Shaw Girls’ 1904 Basketball Team’s Descendants To Hold June Gathering

“Undisputed Champions”

The monument honoring the 1904 Fort Shaw girls’ basketball team declares them to be the “Undisputed Champions” and, this June 8, descendants of the girls are planning a gathering for the team’s 120th anniversary.

The 1904 champions pictured on the monument included Rose LaRose, Shoshone- Bannack; Flora Lucero, Chippewa; Kate Snell, Assiniboine; Minnie Burton, Lemhi Shoshone; Genevieve Healy, Gros Ventre; Sarah Mitchell, Assiniboine; Emma Sansaver, Chippewa-Cree; Genie Butch, Assiniboine; Belle Johnson, Piegan; Nettie Wirth, Assiniboine. The photo was taken in front of the Model Indian School at the St. Louis World’s Fair.

Butch, Wirth and Mitchell were from the Fort Peck Reservation, while Healey and Snell were from Fort Belknap Reservation and Sansaver was from the Havre area. Burton and LaRoses were from the Fort Hall Reservation in Idaho. Johnson was from the Blackfeet Reservation and Lucero was from the Choteau area.

Three others — Delia Gebeau, Spokane from the Flathead Reservation; Josephine Langley, Piegan, from the Blackfeet Reservation; and Gertrude LaRance, Chippewa- Cree, from the Choteau area — also played a role in the earlier history of the team, but did not make the trip to St. Louis.

The team began playing at the Fort Shaw Government Indian Boarding School and were coached by the school’s superintendent, Fred Campbell. After several years of defeating high school, as well as college teams, they boarded a train in June 1904 for the World’s Fair in St. Louis, Mo. They spent five months there at the Model Indian School, which was the “centerpiece of the government’s anthropological ‘exhibit’ of indigenous peoples,” according to the Sun River Valley Historical Society’s tribute to the team.

“The exhibition games played by the 10 young women from Fort Shaw proved to be of great interest to fairgoers. Toward the end of the exposition, the Indian team from Fort Shaw was challenged to a three-game series by a team of Missouri All-Stars. The winner would be named Champions of the World’s Fair,” reads the SRVHS webpage on the team. The June 8 memorial event at Fort Shaw, located 26 miles west of Great Falls, begins at 1 p.m. with the recognition of honored guests, including Linda Peavy, author and historian who co-wrote and published a book on the team’s history.

The team as also inducted into the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame as a legacy inductee in 2013. More information can be found on their Facebook page: 1904 Fort Shaw Girls World Champion Basketball Team; or on the Sun River Valley Historical Society website, https://www.srvhs. info/1904-indian-girls-championship- basketball-team. html.

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