The Red Lake Reservation is 250 miles from Minneapolis. It is a closed reservation, 1,200 square miles, all land owned in common by the Red Lake Chippewa Band - land won by conquest not designated by Europeans. There are about 5,000 residents on the Rez, with three times that many living in Minneapolis.
All over the Upper Midwest kids growing up on the Rez play basketball. This year the Red Lake Warriors made it to the state basketball tournament, but lost on Friday in the semi-finials. It was a very young tean and one of their teammates, the coach's son, died of cancer at the beginning of the season. If they had made it to the finals it would have been a real Cinderella story, but sometimes emotion can only carry you so far.
The finals of the 1997 State Tournament, Red Lake vs Wabasso, was the most exciting basketball game I have ever seen. There were an estimated 7000 American Indians from tribes from all over the Midwest and even Oklahoma in the bleachers. Both teams were not tall, so the played with speed; they were runners, but Red Lake was down by 18 points with less than 5 minutes left. Gerald Kingbird who was a sophmore simply took over. He scored 19 points, mostly three pointers, in the final quarter and took the game into overtime. Final score of the game was 117 to 114!
Even if you are not a basketball fan, and I am not, watch the pregame and the last few minutes. It was electric.
Gerald Kingbird was a graceful athlete, possibly the best pure shooter I have even seen at any level. After college he returned to teach high school and coach at Red Lake. He died in 2014 at he age of 40. Far too young.
Reliving the past - Gunnar