Today the University Press of Kansas officially launched my book Hopi Runners: Crossing the Terrain between Indian and American (CultureAmerica series).
I am grateful for the support of so many people over the years who have encouraged me as I completed this project. I thank my family and friends, past and current students, colleagues at the University of Illinois, and numerous scholars here in the United States and abroad. I also thank the wonderful staff at the press, and of course, readers of this blog!
Last week, Craig Chamberlin of the University of Illinois News Bureau published a story about the book. You can access the story here. If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Hopi Runners, you can do so through Amazon or the publisher’s website.
Below is an excerpt from the book’s Introduction titled “To the Fence and Back.” The excerpt comes from a section of the Introduction where I describe Hopi runners who competed at federal off-reservation Indian boarding schools:
While Hopis participated in several sports, including basketball, football, and even boxing, their greatest success came as members of track and cross-country teams. Sports at off-reservation schools provided Native athletes opportunities that did not exist for them on their reservations. When Hopis joined cross-country teams at Sherman Institute, or the Indian school at Carlisle, they experienced for the first time different regions of the country, life in modern cities, and a new way of running footraces. And Hopis used these opportunities to learn and interact with people from other parts of the United States and the world. While competing in marathons, Hopis ran with runners from Ireland, Germany, Sweden, and Japan, and although from vastly different cultures, they spoke a common – and perhaps universal – language of competitive running.
Having come from a society that valued long-distance running for ceremonial and practical purposes, Hopi youth transferred this cultural mindset with with them when they entered these faraway schools. Hopi runners who competed at Indian schools had come from a tribe of racers. While none of these athletes needed to be taught the essence of long-distance running, coaches nevertheless trained them in modern running techniques and rules to compete effectively in American track and cross-country events. The dirt trails on the reservation did not resemble the paved roads or clay tracks used in many American running competitions. And so, in their first year on a school’s cross-country team, Hopis learned about running in different locations, climates, and elevations. And they had to develop mental and physical strategies for running in cities, on mountain roads, or in front of thousands of cheering spectators in a stadium.
When Hopis ran on trails back home, they did so in a relatively quiet and peaceful environment, far from the sounds of locomotives arriving and departing towns such as Winslow. Running on or near the mesas, Hopis became attuned with their bodies and surroundings, becoming one with their environment. They listened to their own breathing, the sound of their feet tapping the trail as they danced on Mother Earth. They felt the rhythmic pounding of their heart telling them to adjust or steady their pace. And they listened to birds singing and the sound of the wind cutting through the canyons. And often they ran alone, experiencing physical ailments that all distance runners endure. “He was alone and running on,” Kiowa poet N. Scott Momaday writes of a Jemez Pueblo runner named Abel. “All of his being was concentrated in the sheer motion of running on, and he was past caring about pain.” In the high desert of Arizona, Hopi runners also beheld beautiful landscapes , greeted majestic sunrises and sunsets, and had unobstructed views for miles in all directions. Running with no distractions from the outside world, Hopis ran with “good hearts,” prayed silently for the well-being of their people, and sang songs to the katsina spirits to entice the rain clouds to follow them home to their villages.
However, the tranquil environment that encompassed the trails back home did not reflect the fast pace and at times chaotic life in large modern American cities…
Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert, Hopi Runners: Crossing the Terrain between Indian and American (University Press of Kansas, 2018), 8, 9, 10.
In the summer of 2010, I started writing an article titled “Marathoner Louis Tewanima and the Continuity of Hopi Running, 1908-1912.” The article was recently published in the Western Historical Quarterly (Autumn 2012, Vol. 43.3, pp. 324-346), which is the official journal of the Western History Association.
Louis Tewanima was from the village of Shungopavi on the Hopi Reservation in northeastern Arizona. In January 1907, he and ten other Hopis traveled to Pennsylvania to attend the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. While at Carlisle, Tewanima received fame and notoriety by winning several running events, which gave him opportunities to compete in the 1908 (London) and 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden. At the Stockholm Olympics, he won the silver medal in the 10,000 meter race.
Over the years, a number of people, especially non-Hopi individuals, have written about Louis Tewanima. The majority of the scholarly literature on Tewanima is found in Peter Nabokov’s Indian Running or larger narratives on Natives and sports, most notably Joseph B. Oxendine’s American Indian Sport Heritage and John Bloom’s To Show What an Indian Can Do.
Although popular audiences often read Tewanima’s story in newspaper articles, magazines, and books, these publications tend to focus on his participation in the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, and many of them perpetuate a romantic portrayal of Tewanima by retelling accounts of him running after rabbits as a young man and running to Winslow, Arizona, “just to see the trains [go by].”
Contrary to one contemporary writer who noted that Tewanima was “almost totally forgotten,” scholars have remained intrigued by his accomplishments, although they are often overshadowed by accounts of his Carlisle teammate, Sac and Fox athlete Jim Thorpe. While references to Tewanima grace the pages of many articles and books, further studies are needed, particularly ones that interpret his accomplishments within the contexts of Hopi and American sport culture.
In my article I argue that Tewanima’s story represents his ability to redefine Hopi running in the twentieth century and shows how he maneuvered within American and European perceptions of Natives and sports. His participation in running events also tells of a time when white Americans situated indigenous people on the fringes of U.S. society but embraced them when they brought honors to the country by representing the nation in athletic competitions at home and abroad.
Furthermore, Tewanima’s involvement in marathons and Olympic races demonstrates the ways Americans used his success to advance the ideals of U.S. nationalism as he simultaneously continued the long tradition of running among his people.
A number of individuals helped me along the way as I conducted research and revised the article for publication, especially my colleagues in the American Indian Studies Program, and the Department of History at the University of Illinois. I am also thankful for the assistance of various Hopi individuals, including Tewanima’s relatives, the remarkable editorial staff of the Western Historical Quarterly, the Journal’s three anonymous reviewers, and officials with the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office for their support of my work.
If you would like to download a copy of my essay, please visit the following link: https://beyondthemesas.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/marathoner-louis-tewanima-and-the-continuity-of-hopi-running-1908-1912-whq-autumn-2012.pdf
On Sunday September 2, the Louis Tewanima Footrace Committee will host the annual Footrace at the village of Shungopavi on Second Mesa. This year is a particularly special one as the Committee is organizing the event to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of Louis Tewanima’s silver medal performance in the 10,000 meter Olympic race in Stockholm, Sweden.
In addition to running in the 10K, I have been asked by race officials to speak on Tewanima at the pre-race dinner the night before on September 1. I am scheduled to speak at 7:00PM (MST) at the Shungopavi Community Center. The pre-race dinner is free and open to the public. For more information on the Footrace, and to obtain registration materials, please visit the following website: http://tewanimafootrace.org/
On July 31, Indian Country Today published a nice write-up on past Native athletes and the Olympic Games. Scroll down on the article to read about Hopi runner Louis Tewanima.
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.
At the end of January, I wrote a post about recent articles on Native runners. In this post, I mentioned that as the 2012 Olympic Games in London approaches, we should expect to see an increase in the number of articles being published on Native athletes, especially long distance runners.
With that in mind, I want to direct you to an article that Jeff Metcalfe published last week titled “Louis Tewanima was Arizona’s sports icon in 2012” in the Arizona Republic. Most of the material for Metcalfe’s article came from previously published sources, including Kate Buford’s Native American Son: The Life and Sporting Legend of Jim Thorpe and Bill Crawford’s All American: The Rise and Fall of Jim Thorpe.
I also wrote an article on Tewanima titled “Marathoner Louis Tewanima and the Continuity of Hopi Running, 1908-1912.” The essay is scheduled to appear in the August 2012 edition of the Western Historical Quarterly – the official journal of the Western History Association.
Photographs by Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert
I arrived at the village of Shungopavi at 5:30 in the morning. A crowd of people gathered at the baseball field. An event volunteer welcomed everyone to the race and gave instructions to the runners.
“The 10K race will begin in 20 minutes” he announced.
A large camera and flash hung around my neck. “Hey, are you with the press?” one man asked. “No, ” I replied, “I am working on a project with the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office on runners. I’m here to photograph the event.”
“The 10K race will begin in 5 minutes” the person behind the megaphone announced.
The runners gathered around the start line. The race had officially begun. Ten seconds later, the runners were gone.
I made my way to the southeast side of the village. The sun had not yet risen over First Mesa. In the valley below, a running trail etched its way through the rocky landscape.
“Any sight of the runners” I asked. “Not yet” a man replied. Everyone waited.
After 25 minutes, the first runner appeared in the distance. It was Hopi runner Juwan Nuvayokva from Oraivi. He ran with ease and strength, showing few signs of fatigue.
On the opposite end of the village 5K runners were climbing their way up the mesa. I arrived to see my father make the final push to the top.
Back at the baseball field the 1 and 2 mile fun runs had started. Children of all ages ran toward the camera.
People clapped and cheered as the youngest runner approached the finish. It was a perfect way to end the race.
Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert
Throughout the week I will be adding more photographs to the slideshow, so be sure to check back.
If you or a family member are pictured in the above slideshow, and you would like a high resolution copy of the photograph, please email me at email@example.com. I want to also extend a special thanks to Bonnie Talakte, Catherine Talakte, and other event organizers for granting me permission to photograph the 37th Annual Louis Tewanima Footrace on Second Mesa.