Charles Albert “Chief” Bender was born on May 5th, 1883 at the White Earth Chippewa Indian Reservation, Brainerd, Minnesota. He was one of 13 children born to Mary Razor (Indian name: Pay shaw de o quay), who was of half Ojibwa (Chippewa) parentage, and Albert Bliss Bender, a homesteader-farmer of German-American descent.
Bender attended the Lincoln Institution, a school for Indians and whites in Philadelphia, from ages 8 to 12, and then returned briefly to Minnesota. From 1898-1901, he was a student at the Carlisle Indian School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania playing baseball for the legendary Glen “Pop” Warner. A natural athlete, Bender also participated in football, basketball and track.
In 1902, Bender attended Dickinson College (also in Carlisle) where he played baseball and football. That summer, Bender pitched for the semi-pro Harrisburg Athletic Club—earning $100.00 a month—and was discovered by Philadelphia Athletics’ scout Jesse Frisinger. Connie Mack then signed Bender to a contract with the Philadelphia Athletics for $1,800 a year, the start of a 12-year relationship with the club.
It appears that Chief was his nickname and not his status within the tribe, although he is listed in the Carlisle Records as “Charles Albert Bender, Chippewa Chief.” His brother, James Bender also attended Carlisle but was expelled, and his sister, Elizabeth, taught at Carlisle.