Humor, Irony, and Indigenous Peoples: A Re-Reading of the Historical Record of the 1904 St. Louis Olympic Championship

in Sport History Review

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Christine M. O’BonsawinUniversity of Victoria

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This paper serves as a re-reading of the historical record concerning the participation of a Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) team in the lacrosse championship of the 1904 St. Louis Olympic Games. Indigenous and deconstructionist methodological frameworks provide historians with strategies for reopening archival texts to ironic interpretation in the hope that we may better recognize the efforts of Indigenous peoples to confront and challenge colonial hegemony. Accordingly, this paper first evaluates the uncritical acceptance of a Kanien’kehá:ka lacrosse player roster comprising unconventional names into the official Olympic record. Second, a re-reading of archival texts allows us to reopen history to ironic interpretation, exposing the possibility that Kanien’kehá:ka players used humor and laughter to resist, subvert, and, ultimately, deny colonial hegemony. We may begin to support the larger missions of Indigenous resurgence and decolonization by revisiting our histories, and thus giving testimony to the past.

The author is with the Dept. of History, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada.

Please address author correspondence to Christine O’Bonsawin at
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