Pipestone Indian Training School—a boarding school in Pipestone, Minnesota, for Dakota and Ojibwe boys and girls—fielded popular and often successful student baseball teams from 1893 until the 1920s.
Congress founded Pipestone Indian Training School in February 1891 at the request of Pipestone residents who thought the school would be a positive addition to their town. The school's first building was complete by October 1892 and its first five students started classes on February 2, 1893. The school drew students primarily from Dakota and Ojibwe reservations in Minnesota and neighboring states. Enrollment quickly swelled to fifty, the school's capacity. By the spring of 1893, Pipestone Indian Training School had its first baseball team.
Baseball was popular nationwide in the late nineteenth century, and white educators at Pipestone and other Indian schools saw the sport as a way to further assimilate their American Indian students. However, baseball had similarities to traditional indigenous stick-and-ball games like lacrosse, and it had already been embraced by American Indian players on reservations and elsewhere.
Students at Pipestone Indian Training School welcomed the game as a break from schoolwork and a chance to have fun. Many students participated, but the main baseball team was made up of older students, mostly teenagers. The team played from the end of April to early June, sometimes on the school's field, sometimes on the town's field.
Always popular within Pipestone, the Training School baseball team enjoyed broader attention from 1905 to 1910, when it had the most wins in its history. The Training School team played against teams from other schools, both American Indian and white. It regularly traveled off-campus to play town teams in other regions, and some of those teams were composed of adults or professional players. Off-campus trips allowed Pipestone's student players more freedom than they were given at school and expanded their horizons. Sometimes, talented American Indian players were recruited from Pipestone Indian Training School to play as freelancers for other teams in the summer. This gave them individual recognition and a source of income.
From around 1911 to 1916, two American Indian men coached the Pipestone Indian Training School baseball team: James Irving, a Dakota man from Rosebud Reservation, and Vincent Sears, a Lakota former student and player from Pine Ridge Reservation. The team still enjoyed considerable support during these years, but interest in baseball had begun to wane locally and nationally. The Training School suspended all baseball in 1917, perhaps in response to World War I.
Pipestone Indian Training School briefly reinstated baseball in the mid-1920s, but the team never again received as much attention as it had in the early 1900s. Finally, in the 1930s, the federal government ended all Indian boarding school sports programs, including the one at Pipestone that provided unique opportunities to American Indian students.
"The Ball Game at Flandrau." Pipestone County Star, June 30, 1893.
"A Ball Team Composed of the Youngest Boys." Pipestone County Star, May 24, 1895.
"Indian School Graduation." Pipestone County Star, May 27, 1910.
"Indians to Play Indians." Pipestone County Star, April 21, 1905.
"The Indians Win Again." Pipestone County Star, May 18, 1906.
"Indians Win Three More." Pipestone County Star, June 1, 1906.
"Indians Won the Game." Pipestone County Star, September 15, 1905.
"It Was a Great Game." Pipestone County Star, June 22, 1906.
Laliberte, David J. "Indian Summers: Baseball at Native American Boarding Schools in Minnesota." Master's thesis, St. Cloud State University, 2008.
———. "Natives, Neighbors and the National Game: Baseball at the Pipestone Indian Training School." Minnesota History 62 no. 2 (Summer 2010): 60-69.
"Local Teams are Beaten." Pipestone County Star, May 21, 1912.
"Much Base Ball Activity." Pipestone County Star, April 14, 1914.
"Piled Up a Large Score." Pipestone County Star, May 11, 1906.
"Reds Win, Boosters Lose." Pipestone County Star, May 11, 1909.
Rose, Arthur P. An Illustrated History of the Counties of Rock and Pipestone Minnesota. Luverne, MN: Northern History Publishing Company, 1911.
"Three Will Graduate." Pipestone County Star, June 15, 1906.
"Two Good Ball Games." Pipestone County Star, May 31, 1910.
"Watertown is Beaten." Pipestone County Star, June 8, 1906.
Baseball at Pipestone Indian Training School peaks in 1906, when student players rack up an impressive series of wins in a schedule of games running into July.