EOU and “Native Sport” exhibit

Good morning and welcome to a new week—a big week for us at the Josephy Center, for me, and for some people at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande. It kicks off with a 5:00 p.m. Tuesday reception for an exhibit at Quinn Coliseum on the Eastern campus.

In April, with tremendous help from Randall Melton and the Tamástslikt Cultural Institute on the Umatilla Reservation, we put up an exhibit we called “Native Sport.” It grew from one Tamástslikt had built on work done by the Heard Museum in Arizona—Randall had doctored it to include scenes from their reservation. With his permission and assistance, we built new exhibit panels featuring the Lapwai boys and girls basketball teams, the Nixyáawii teams from Umatilla, Nez Perce baseball star Levi McCormack and more. One of the new panels is called “From Montana Rez Ball to EOU,” and features the Arlee, Montana team followed and captured in a book, Brothers on Three, by Abe Streep of the New York Times.

The spark of this exhibit, for me, was watching Nixyáawii play over the years and reading the NYT magazine piece about Arlee that someone sent to me. I followed up reading the book, and then a friend from Montana told me that one of the Arlee team stars, Phil Malatare, is now playing for Eastern! I got in touch with coach Chris Kemp, and with my friend and head of the new Native Studies program at Eastern, Linda Jerofke, and here we are! The exhibit at Quinn Coliseum on the Eastern campus, which is sponsored by the Athletic Department and the Native Studies program, will be up for two months.

The exhibit is 24 panels of text and photos, featuring ancient games, Lakota Olympic runner Billy Mills, Jim Thorpe, and modern “rezball.” Rezball is now a word that is known from Arlee, Montana to Navajo country in Arizona and New Mexico. It features quick, strong defense, teamwork, and feed the hot shooter. I’ve watched two Eastern games this season, and Phil Malatare, Nez Perce player Emmitt Taylor III from Lapwai, and a group of players from many places across the nation are playing a version of what I would call rezball (as are the Golden State Warriors).

There’s more to the exhibit of course: Levi McCormack’s career at Washington State College and with the Spokane Indians, Jackson Sundown, rodeo, and Indian horse racing, Jim Thorpe’s Colville sidekick at Carlisle…

If you are in La Grande this Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. come by Quinn for a look—and to say hello! And if not this week, take a look when you get a chance this entire college term, and let us know what you think!


  1. I was able to stop in to the exhibit this weekend. I was overjoyed to see SO MUCH information absolutely covering the walls and windows of the cavernous entrance to Quinn. It was very inspiring and I hope the people who attend sporting events stop to learn a little something while on campus.

  2. Thanks Richie,

    I am going to put a “comment book” in the lobby on Saturday. Should have had it there all along!

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