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In 1904 the women’s basketball team at Fort Shaw Indian Boarding School in Montana were world champions.
The young women on the Fort Shaw team came from seven tribes throughout Montana and Idaho. Some of the girls had played shinny or double ball, but had likely never played this new sport. Their first game was against a high school boy’s team in Great Falls. The young ladies rode 40 miles in horse drawn wagons to play that game, winning and actually doubling the score of the boy’s team.
The 1904 World’s Fair was held in St. Louis, Missouri. Fort Shaw Indian School Superintendent Fred C. Campbell arranged for the team and other Fort Shaw students to attend and live in tipis at the Indian Exhibit. They performed dozens of times showing their basketball talent as well as musical talents to raise money for the trip.
Missouri had put together an all-star team—their coach studied Fort Shaw and spent the summer preparing for them. They thought they were ready. It was a best of three series. The score in the first game was 24-2 in favor of Fort Shaw. Missouri requested a several week delay before the second game—the final score of which was 17-6, again in favor of Fort Shaw. They were declared world champions.
Fort Shaw was to close as a boarding school in 1910. The basketball team members went their separate ways, but their story continues to be told. PBS produced a movie called, Playing for the World. In 2004, Happy Jack Feder wrote a book called Shoot, Minnie, Shoot! Another movie was produced with that same title. In 2008, Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith produced another book titled Full-Court Quest: The Girls from Fort Shaw Indian School Basketball Champions of the World.