Miko Kings: An Indian Baseball StoryFeb 15th, 2010 | By dlindsey | Category: 21-3: Tribal College Faculty, Spring 2010
LeAnne Howe (Choctaw)
San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books (2007)
Review by Donal F. Lindsey
Fastball was supposed to be an ethical game when played in the early 1900s by segregated Red, Black, and White teams. For novelist LeAnne Howe, the pennant series between the all-Native Miko Kings (chiefs) against the Seventh Cavalry was decisive in the Indian Territory becoming the state of Oklahoma. One side believed that Indians invented baseball; the other that “one was already half-civilized when learning to play it.” Long after 1907, the games were replayed, much as the events of the Little Big Horn or Wounded Knee were replayed.
Choctaws knew the names of sidewinder Hope Little Leader (a.k.a.) “No Hands,” catcher “Batteries” Goingsnake, and slugger Blip Bleen but not those of legislators forcing removal, allotment, and competency hearings for oil leases, men who led to the downfall of Native families. Howe explores rewards and punishments of betrayal in prairies of dust, tornadoes, and grasshoppers, where bases never measured 60 feet and fields were never quite level.
Cheating was a hallmark of acculturation. The plot shows how a man with friends and admirers threw them all away at great cost to himself, his team, and his people. She shows how a single toss and one strategic blunder can create misery, contempt, and repudiation for increasingly dismal lives: It is no field of dreams when 1 + 1 = 4.
As tribal nations faded into imposed statehood, Howe’s startling work suggests the series determined local and Indian history for the entire 20th Century. This book is perfect for an otherwise non-reading sports audience and all students of heroic and pathetic consequence.
Donald F. Lindsey has worked as a National Park ranger at Pipestone National Monument and Mesa Verde National Park and has been a visiting professor at Temple University, SUNY-Oswego, and at the University of North Carolina-Pembroke. He has worked with the Sacred Run of Anishinabe activist Dennis Banks for two decades.