Smithsonian to host exhibit on Native Olympic athletes

This Friday May 25, the Smithsonian will open an exhibit titled “Best in the World: Native Athletes in the Olympics.” The exhibit will feature Jim Thorpe, Duke Kahanamoku, Andrew Sockalexis, Billy Mills, and Hopi runner Louis Tewanima of Shungopavi on Second Mesa.

The Smithsonian has a nice write-up about the event on its website:

On the 100th anniversary of the Olympic Games in which athletes Jim Thorpe (Sac and Fox), Duke Kahanamoku (Native Hawaiian), Andrew Sockalexis (Penobscot) and Lewis Tewanima (Hopi) represented the United States in Stockholm, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian presents “Best in the World: Native Athletes in the Olympics.” The exhibition opens Friday, May 25.

In 1912, Thorpe swept both the pentathlon and decathlon at the Olympic Games, becoming the first and only Olympian to accomplish such a feat and earning the accolades of King Gustav V of Sweden, who proclaimed Thorpe to be “the greatest athlete in the world.” Thorpe was joined that year by fellow Native teammates Kahanamoku, who won the 100-meter freestyle; Sockalexis, who placed fourth in the marathon; and Tewanima, who won the silver medal and set an American record for the 10,000 meters that stood for more than 50 years until Billy Mills (Oglala Lakota) won the gold medal in Tokyo in 1964.

Louis Tewanima competed in the 1908 (London) and 1912 (Stockholm) Olympic Games. For those who might be interested, I have written an article on Tewanima titled “Marathoner Louis Tewanima and the Continuity of Hopi Running, 1908-1912,” which will appear soon in the Western Historical Quarterly.

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