It was a pleasure to visit with many of my good Crow friends and even some of the players to get an inside scoop about the Lodge Grass Indians winning the 2021 Montana Class B State Championship featured in another section of this issue. Heck! Now maybe I’m a sportswriter, but probably not. The Team, the Crow Nation and indeed all Indian Country have good reason to celebrate this victory. It makes us all feel good.
While their victory and ball playing acumen are certainly impressive, some other things about this team impressed me more.
These are all very spiritually grounded young men, following the traditions of their people and it extremely apparent that they are humble and thankful to the Creator for this blessing. They also have the highest respect and regard for their elders and mentors, something we could use a little more of. They are learning and following our traditional ways, centered around brotherhood, Indian way, and the most sacred bond of all. They live it.
It is exceptionally outstanding that they are all good students, with an eye to future education and careers. This is marked departure from my day when too many of our great Indian basketball players found fleeting high school glory, but only a few managed at the collegiate level. I’ll mention a few of my personal acquaintances who did, though they were the exception rather than the rule: My first husband, Jamie Miller, Assiniboine, tragically killed at a very young age, attended Black Hills State and graduated even gaining honorable mention as an All-American. When I met him in California, he was an assistant bank manager, a handy way to finance the ongoing intramural basketball games of the time, still playing despite two blown knees. His roommate James McLaughlin, Sioux also got some higher education and had a good B.I.A, job, but basketball also remained his passion. They basically arranged their lives around the game, even scrimmaging with the Oakland Bucks’ Jamie was a menace on the court, but sadly also left us at a young age. Another one is Eugene Limpy, Northern Cheyenne who attended and graduated Rocky Mountain College on a basketball scholarship returning to the reservation to hold a variety of tribal director jobs. On the court and off, these guys were trail blazers.
But. Times are changing. More and more we see Indian athletes from reservations who can hold their own with the best at the college level. A good example is Tuff Harris, Crow/Cheyenne who went on to play for the NFR. Tuff cut his athletic teeth at Lodge Grass, an area which seems to produce many fine athletes. Tuff, like many senior athletes now spends much of his time encouraging and coaching young ones who aspire to the same goals.
We need to remind these young stars that the days of high school and even college ball are brief. Sooner or later they too will become senior athletes. It’s a lot easier to do that when you have some other skills that will enable you to make a living and raise a family. The bright side is that they still do have old-timers’ ball leagues.
I’ll close with a Henry Realbird joke to that end. At one time Henry was a top bronc riding contender, recently confiding. “If I ever decide to start riding broncs again, I’ll have to go s bronc riding school.”
“Oh, it’ll probably come back to you,” I answered. “Why would you have to go to school?”
“Because there is a hundred pounds of me that’s never been on a bronc.”
(Clara Caufield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)