Nineteenth century football coach, track star gains Hall of Fame placement

Thursday, November 15, 2018
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Courtesy photo

Frank Shively stands between Crow Chief Plenty Coups and Big Shoulder Blade during a visit to Washington, D.C. in May 1905. Shively, in addition to his sports-related feats, served as interpreter for Plenty Coups’ biography.

A Crow tribal member who served as a statesman, interpreter and Montana’s first head football coach at Washington Agricultural College and School of Science – now called Washington State University – is set to be honored the evening of Saturday, Dec. 1 by the Montana Indian Athletic Hall of Fame. Known by his Crow name of Braided Scalp Lock, Frank Shively served as the Pullman, Washington school’s team coach through its 1898 and ’99 seasons.

At the time, according to a September 1933 article in the Spokane Daily Chronicle, Frank “was allowed two days each week” to coach, while working as a stenographer at the Nez Perce Indian Agency in Lapwai, Idaho.

“Shively was a good coach,” the article stated, “and in addition was, at that time, one of the fastest men in the United States in the 100-yard dash.”

Hardin resident and family historian Harlan Conroy, Frank’s great-grandson, commented “my brothers and sisters and I are very happy” about his recognition. Frank’s efforts – and those of other tribal members – toward education, Harlan added, helped the Crow in the shift from “the wild, buffalo-hunting Indians to the reservation.”

“He was very, very reserved; [and] very educated,” Harlan said. “His penmanship is absolutely beautiful in the letters that we have from him.

“We’re all one people, but at that time, it was a totally different era. Indians were regarded differently in white society and him putting his foot forward really helped, I believe, change the attitudes of white culture to Native American abilities and intelligence, and their potential.”

Frank, Harlan wrote, was born the son of Union Civil War veteran Samuel Shively and Mountain Crow woman Girl Sees the Weed. He was a direct descendant of Chief Big Shade, who was the principal signatory of the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty.

Girl Sees the Weed died in childbirth and Samuel – a compatriot of Mitch Bouyer, the famed Custer scout – was ambushed and killed by a Sioux war party in 1875. Orphaned, Frank was sent as a young boy to study in the white man’s schools. Frank attended Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, where he participated in the new sports, including football, baseball and track. Though records weren’t well-kept, according to Harlan, what he does know indicates that Frank – in addition to his football and track accolades – also was skilled in baseball and tennis.

“He was known as “Shorty Shively” at Carlisle, and ran track and was quite successful at that,” Harlan said, adding that, according to his Billings Gazette eulogy, he also “was known for his curveball.”

After graduating in 1898, Frank first went to work at the Nez Perce Agency, where he coached football at Washington Agricultural College and School of Science up to the start of the 20th century. He then returned to his native Crow people, where he served his tribe as a statesman and interpreter in the early 1900s, traveling many times to Washington, D.C. with Crow delegations.

Finally, Frank served as the interpreter for the biography of the last traditional Crow Chief, Plenty Coups.

Among Frank’s descendants, Harlan wrote, are many notable athletes and coaches who followed in his footsteps. Two descendants mentioned by Harlan include his brother Lyndon Conroy and a great-greatgranddaughter of Frank’s named Natalie Horne, both graduates of Hardin High School.

Lyndon of Colstrip, in 2008, was inducted into the Montana Coaches Hall of Fame following 26 years of coaching, and eight track and field state championships between 1995 and 2005. Natalie, who arrived at Carroll College in Helena off of a volleyball scholarship, was an All-Conference as well as All-Region setter in 2000 and 2002. She was inducted into the college’s Hall of Fame in 2014.

According to Harlan, he tries to emulate Frank’s commitment to service, which he wrote was extended by the coach’s granddaughter, Lucille Colleen Barnes Conroy. Born in 1934, Lucille graduated Lodge Grass High School, then proceeded to become chairwoman of the Big Horn County Central Republican Committee and the first American Indian to serve on the Montana Board of Regents.

“Frank’s descendants are very proud of their ancestor for his many achievements,” Harlan wrote, “and for the example that he set for them to follow.”