Hopi runners in the audience

I recently returned from attending the American Indian Studies Association (AISA) Conference in Tempe, Arizona. I delivered a paper titled “Hopi Footraces and American Marathons, 1912-1930.” This paper, in its article form, will appear next month in American Quarterly. I was happy to see that some Hopis came to my talk, including two students from ASU. Since I first presented on this topic, I cannot recall the last time I had Hopi long distance runners in the audience. Both of these students were runners.

After the session I talked at length with the students about how the world focuses so much attention on Louis Tewanima, but back home our people realize that while Tewanima was good, other Hopi runners were just as good or better than the famous Olympian from Shungopavi. Although these students already knew about Tewanima, they had not heard of the other runners that I mentioned in my paper. I also did not know about these runners before I started this project.

One of the most rewarding aspects of being a faculty at the University of Illinois is the opportunity I have to make my research available and meaningful to the Hopi community. This has always been the driving force behind my work.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

11 thoughts on “Hopi runners in the audience

  1. Dorma Sahneyah

    I am interested in reading your research on other Hopi runners. My grandfather was a runner way back when. His name is Harry T. Chaca (deceased). My brother followed in his footsteps and earned a college degree from Illinois State in the 1980’s. His name is Herman Sahneyah.

    1. Dorma, so great to hear from you! Did you happen to see my newspaper article about your grandfather in the Hopi Tutuveni? It came out in October 2008 and it was titled “Harry Chaca’s running legacy at Sherman Institute, 1928-1929” Also, I have a article that will appear in a few weeks in a journal called American Quarterly (AQ), and a good portion of the article is about your grandfather. I will send you an email soon with newspaper clippings and photos of your grandfather. I sent Harry’s grandson, Maynard Tahbo, copies of these materials as well. And when my article comes out in AQ, I will email you a copy. Thanks again for commenting on my post.

  2. Val Charlie

    What about our Hopi High School Boys cross country runners. They have been the top twenty at the state finals. And we should be proud of these boys and from the pass runners.Do a write up on these runners who all went to state and put Hopi on the map.

  3. Dinah Chaca-Gillette

    Hello, I did read your article in the Tutuveni regarding my grandfather Harry Chaca. He was a wonderful man and my father (Harry’s son, Alvin Chaca) has done his best to follow in his father’s shoes. Later in life, Harry was a judge for the Hopi Courts and also served as a member of the Hopi Tribal Council. My father Alvin has also served on the Tribal Council. Until recently my father still farmed the land like my grandfather used to. I remember as a young girl following my grandpa Harry as he dug holes for the corn kernels,with my dad right along him digging also. Boy were they fast. I remember my grandfather fondly and his smile. I always wanted to follow in my grandfather(s) footsteps and after graduation from NAU I became a Police Officer like my maternal grandfather, Hale Adams. I later served as a Justice of the Peace in Coconino County. I know they are happy that we are all well. I have three other siblings: Duane Harry Chaca, Denise Mahkewa & Doreen Molinar. Thank you for the information you provided, my dad has several copies in his possession, as do I.

    1. Hello, Dinah! Thanks so much for sharing about your family. If you don’t already have a copy of my journal article “Hopi Footraces and American Marathons, 1912-1930,” let me know and I can send you a PDF copy. Also, I have come across several references to Hopis with the last name “Adams” in my research – mostly students who attended Sherman Institute. Some of the names include Adeline Bonnie Adams, Byron A. Adams, Ernest Adams, Earl Adams, and Hazel Adams. I have a big list of names with birth dates, which I am more than happy to pass along to you and your family. Thanks again for your comment!

  4. Hi my name is Marilyn. I am a granddaughter of the late Harry T. Chaca who was a great runner for Sherman Institute. I did attend Sherman Indian School in the 70’s. I had seen the trophy in the museum but never knew that trophy belonged to my grandfather. I had read the article on Harry in the Tutuveni and found out that the trophy was his. If I had known during the time I attended Sherman I would have been proud to tell my friends and staff, that the trophy belonged to my grandfather. He shared many stories to us grandchildren about his running days on the Hopi reservation. Very interesting stories he shared that will always be treasured.

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