British Society of Sports History

Promoting the Study of the History of Sport

Winner of the 2016 prize for best article in Sport in History

publication date: Nov 30, 2016

The winner of the prize for the best paper published in Sport in History in 2015 was Janice Forsyth's Make the Indian Understand his Place: Politics and the Establishment of the Tom Longboat Awards at Indian Affairs and the Amateur Athletic Union of Canada.

The Tom Longboat Awards were created in 1951 through a joint agreement between the Indian Affairs Branch and the Amateur Athletic Union of Canada ostensibly to celebrate the life of Tom Longboat, the Onondaga runner who caught the world's attention in the early 1900s. His passing in 1949 sparked a trend in memorialising him that continues to this day. The Tom Longboat Awards, which have been given out every year since their inception, are the longest standing and most prestigious award for Native athletes in Canada. Using documents collected from the National Archives of Canada, online repositories, personal archives, as well as oral interview data, this paper examines the broader political context that gave rise to the Awards and the significance that was attached to them by Indian Affairs and the Amateur Athletic Union of Canada. This paper shows that the Tom Longboat Awards are much more than a simple celebration of athletic accomplishments. Rather, they were created to be a valuable tool through which to advance specific social and political agendas; in the 1950s, these agendas focused primarily on education, health, and citizenship, all of which were further embedded into a larger colonial environment aimed at Native assimilation.

The article can be downloaded here: