In 1919 Oorang Kennel owner, Walter Lingo, met and became friends with Jim Thorpe of the Canton Bulldogs, a future Pro Football Hall of Famer who was considered the greatest athlete of his time. Lingo had a deep passion for the Airedales, which he raised, and for Native American culture. LaRue, Ohio, was once the site of an old Wyandot village and Lingo believed that a supernatural bond existed between the Indians and the Airedales. Thorpe first came to Lingo's defense after neighboring farmers accused Lingo's Oorang Kennels of raising "a nation of sheep killers". Thorpe came to Lingo's aid by testifying that he once knew an Oorang Airedale that had saved the life of a 6-year-old girl, named Mabel, from being trampled by a bull. Afterwards, Lingo and Thorpe became friends and soon began hunting together.
In 1921, Lingo invited Thorpe and Pete Calac, who was a teammate of Thorpe's at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, to his plantation in LaRue to hunt for opossum. It was on this trip that the men agreed on a way both to advertise Airedales and to employ Thorpe, who after dominating the Ohio League for much of the late 1910s was no longer to lead his Canton Bulldogs to championships in a broader national league. Lingo would purchase a franchise in the young National Football League, and Thorpe would run the team. At the time, the cost of purchasing an NFL franchise was $100. Meanwhile, just one of Lingo's Airedales sold for $150. Lingo saw the idea of a franchise as a way of touring the country's leading cities for the express purpose of advertising his Airedales. Therefore, he placed two conditions on the team. The first was that Thorpe had to field an all-Indian team. Secondly, Lingo wanted the team to help run his kennels in addition to playing football. Thorpe and Calac agreed to both terms. Finally, Thorpe would be paid $500 a week to coach, play, and manage the kennels.
In June 1922, Lingo, who also served as the team's business manager, traveled to Canton, Ohio, and purchased an NFL franchise for $100. He named his team the Oorang Indians, after his kennels and favorite breed of dog. The name stood out to sports and dog fans alike. Lingo originally wanted the team to play out of LaRue, but that was hard to justify since the small town was missing a football field. The issue led to the club performing almost exclusively on the road as a traveling team, where it could draw the biggest crowds and best advertise the dogs. However, Thorpe and Lingo also felt that it would be nice to keep the Indians at home once or twice a year. The nearest town with a suitable football field was Marion, Ohio, which served as the location for the Indians' "home" games. The players would be in a constant state of travel week after week to many of the major cities in the country; such traveling teams were a regular part of professional football, which had a tradition of barnstorming, through its early existence. However, despite the hectic schedule, Lingo later insisted that the Indians received the very best of care. The same dieticians and the same trainer who fed his Airedales and cared for their well-being also tended to the Indian team members.
"White people had this misconception about Indians. They thought they were all wild men, even though almost all of us had been to college and were generally more civilized than they were. Well, it was a dandy excuse to raise hell and get away with it when the mood struck us. Since we were Indians we could get away with things the whites couldn't. Don't think we didn't take advantage of it."
—Leon Boutwell, Oorang Indians Quarterback, when asked if he felt that the team exploited Native-Americans
Jim Thorpe served as a player-coach and recruited players for the team. In keeping with Lingo's wishes that franchise be an all-Indian team, Indians from all over the United States traveled to LaRue to try out for the team. Many of the prospects were from Thorpe's alma mater, the Carlisle Indian School. Several of the candidates looking to make the team had not played in years and were older than 40. While many of the members of the team were not full-blooded Indians—Thorpe himself was three-eights Irish—every identifiable team member has proved to have at least some Indian blood. The Oorang Indians consisted of members who were Cherokee, Mohawk, Chippewa, Blackfeet, Winnebago, Mission, Caddo, Sac and Fox, Seneca, and Penobscot. The team roster included such colorful names as Long Time Sleep, Woodchuck Welmas, Joe Little Twig, Big Bear, War Eagle, and Thorpe. The team also had four former Carlisle Indians football captains in Thorpe, Joe Guyon, Pete Calac, and Elmer Busch and the Indians' trainer was John Morrison, reportedly the first Carlisle captain.
Walter Lingo's son Bob later recalled that the team practiced every day, depending on the workload at the dog kennel. However, training for an NFL season was only a secondary mission for the players. They did everything at the dog kennels, from training the dogs to building crates to ship them in. They kept in good physical condition, which was more important than an actual practice. Bob Lingo also stated that several of the team's plays were made up on the spot, similar to the play-calling in a sandlot football game.