Many recognize the name St. Germaine. Many adore the National Football League. Some recall learning about Indian Treaties in history class. Some of us even remember Jim Thorpe. But how they weave into the history of the Lac du Flambeau Tribe remains a mystery to many. 

In the NFL’s early days there were many teams now unfamiliar to football fans. Detroit Wolverines, Kenosha Maroons, and Milwaukee Badgers to name a few. And, of course, the Oorang Indians. 

Thomas “Ted” St. Germaine, a member of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, played for the Oorang Indians, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame website. 

In 1922, the all-Native team was organized in Ohio and led by none other than Jim Thorpe, a Sac and Fox tribesman. At the time Thorpe was celebrated as the world’s greatest athlete of all time. 

Other Oorang players hailing from Lac du Flambeau included George Vetternack and Alex Bobidosh, according to the Wisconsin Culture Coalition, a group focused on history. 

Scanning online historic documents, it appears St. Germaine joined the Oorang Indians in 1922 at the age of 37. He weighed 250 pounds and stood 6 foot, 2 inches tall and played lineman. He’s said to have been the biggest man on the team. But his achievements were varied and many beyond professional football. 

St. Germaine attended the University of Wisconsin and Dickinson College in Pennsylvania. He continued his education at Howard University and Yale where, in 1914, he earned a law degree. 

In his book “Walter Lingo, Jim Thorpe and the Oorang Indians,” author Chris Willis writes St. Germaine was the first Native to join the Wisconsin State Bar as a lawyer. St. Germaine also is believed to be the only lawyer to play football in the NFL. 



Advocate for treaty rights

According to the Wisconsin History Magazine, St. Germaine served as advisor in 1934 to the Tribal delegation sent to what’s described as the Hayward Congress. The meeting had U.S. government officials hear testimony from Tribes about concerns related to Indian Treaty Rights.

Wisconsin History 

Magazine describes St. Germaine’s speech as one of “the most poignant speeches of the 

Congress.” 

“Someone has said, in fact the Supreme Court has said, that the treaty is the supreme law of the land,” the Lac du Flambeau lawyer said. “I don’t know what they mean by that. Perhaps they should have said all but an Indian treaty (is the supreme law of the land).” 

“An Indian treaty, it seems, can be twisted any old way to suit someone else. A mere interpretation by a certain group of men should not change the law,” St. Germaine concluded.   

“In the history of the NFL, there’s never been a team quite like the Oorang Indians,” according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame website. 

The same could be said for the history of Ted St. Germaine. 

Sarah Schuman is the assistant tribal historic preservation officer for the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians.