HASKELL, Oklahoma – For the second year, Muscogee (Creek) Nation Recreation hosted the men’s and women’s basketball games between Bacone College and Haskell Indian Nations University Sat. Jan. 7 at Haskell Public Schools. The Warriors and Fightin’ Indians are conference rivals, but the game between the two is more than just a rival game. It is also an excellent opportunity for Bacone and Haskell alums and Natives throughout Indian Country to come together.
According to Mike Sans, MCN Rec Manager, Bacone reached out to the department last year in hopes of using the Mvskoke Dome for the season. Unfortunately, Bacone’s gym has been out of commission, but the teams can still play home games at the Dome.
The “Battle on the Hardwood” was initially scheduled to take place at the Dome, but a water line break caused immense damage and could not be repaired in time. This left the Rec staff searching for a gym that met college basketball requirements in a short amount of time.
One of those requirements is a shot clock which is not something most high schools have. However, MCN Rec Project Specialist Lucas Taylor and Haskell Public School Superintendent Rodney Luellen (Mvskoke) worked together to move the game to Haskell Public Schools.
“I immediately got a hold of my athletic director about my coaches, and all four were in 100% agreement to help out,” said Luellen. “Lucas has helped us a lot over here, and so has the [Muscogee Nation] tribe.”
The advantage that HPS had is that they have shot clocks in their gym. They are not typically used, though, so additional equipment was needed.
“We had to borrow Haskell’s console to run our shot clocks because we don’t use shot clocks in high school basketball, and we taped out the 3-point line to meet NCAA standards,” Luellen said.
MCN Rec wanted to incorporate other tribal traditions along with Mvskoke ones.
“We do stompdances, so to connect with all tribes, most of them do pow-wows, and they enjoy that,” said Sans. “Some people have never seen it, so that’s just something the Natives want to bring out so that everybody can enjoy it.”
This year, the Este Cate Hoktvke Suletawv Honor Guard presented the colors while the Moose Hill Singers performed a flag song. The Moose Hill Singers are a three-person drum team, Robbie Boston (Mississippi Choctaw), James Green (Kansas Kickapoo), and Moses Starr (Sioux). Green’s daughters Kendall and Savannah (Kansas Kickapoo) danced as they played during halftime of the games. The concession stands sold Indian Tacos, and Native vendors set up in the lobby.
Bacone College and Haskell Indian Nations University are both four-year Tribal Colleges. Alums from both schools came to show their support for the current players.
“The thing about it is, especially in Indian Country, with these two schools, you always have some kind of connection,” said Taylor. “Either you went there, your parents went there, your grandparents went there, your cousins or whatever, there’s a common link between these two schools.”
“To me, the importance of this game is just getting the community involved,” Taylor continued. “Each year, we’re trying to do it bigger and better.”
The Fightin’ Indians took the W for both games. The women’s final score was 75 – 43, and the men’s 92 – 68.