The establishment of the Black Hawks hockey team was an expression of the significant growth of sports in residential schools after World War II. Prior to this era, physical education at residential schools did not usually include competitive sports as a formal part of the curriculum, whereas military drill, calisthenics, and gymnastics were provided on a regular basis. When sports were offered, they tended to be at schools where instructors played what they knew how to play. Sports such as hockey, football, lacrosse, baseball, and running, as well as activities like swimming, croquet, and skating were very popular, especially up to World War I.
The shift towards competitive sports in the 1940s happened because policy at Indian Affairs began to emphasize Indigenous integration into mainstream society, and organized sports were viewed as one way to achieve this goal. It was also believed that sports could help promote good character in Indigenous youth and encourage them to adopt Euro-Canadian value systems. By 1949, Indian Affairs began reporting on successful sports teams in the Indian School Bulletin, an instructional and informational booklet sent out to all residential school staff. By 1950 Indian Affairs had created a new portfolio for Physical Education and Recreation within its organization and, in 1951, hired Jan Eisenhardt, who was recognized nationally for his work in physical fitness, to promote competitive sports in the schools.
Until the fall of 1948, the only facility for hockey at Sioux Lookout Indian Residential School was a small rink cleared on Pelican Lake. By October of that year, interest in building a rink grew and lumber from a dismantled building was approved for this use. By November, the rink was under construction and was located behind the school. The facility had to be put up every fall and taken down every spring so that boys could use the playing field for ball hockey, using improvised materials, during the warmer months. Soon, skating for both boys and girls--and hockey for the boys--became the heart of the school's physical education program.
Indian Agent Gifford Swartman played a key role in helping the team to get started. He had noticed that there were few recreational opportunities for students at the school. He approached prominent businessmen from the town of Sioux Lookout to assist. Art Schade, who took an immediate interest in the team, helped with financial support and Oreste Tintinalle transported them to games in a bread van. The Black Hawks were the result of a collective effort that included support from Indian Affairs, the Indian School Administration, Principal Wickenden, as well as donations and support from Sioux Lookout citizens. (Photo: ca. 1930s)
Did you know that physical activities were more than just fun pastimes for students? They also served the government's objectives for assimilation. Find out how these objectives were implemented at Sioux Lookout Indian Residential School.