Baseball was well on its way to being the clear national pastime at that time, Laliberte said, and it soon became a way to assimilate the Native American children into Euro-American life.
But the children organized and ran the teams themselves and often used their own language when playing. It served as the modern-day equivalent of coaches’ signs because the other team couldn’t understand the language.
It also allowed the Ojibwe children to retain part of their culture at a time when white authority was telling them to renounce it, Laliberte said.
Playing on a baseball team would've been another way. It would've given them some private time on the field where they could be themselves.
For more on the subject, see More Indian Baseball Lore and Invisible History of Indian Baseball.