Posts Tagged 'Lewis Tewanima'

“Marathoner Louis Tewanima and the Continuity of Hopi Running, 1908-1912” (Western Historical Quarterly, Autumn 2012)

Click to download article (23 pages)

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

Upcoming lecture on Louis Tewanima at University of Notre Dame – Wed. April 11, 2012

Recent articles feature indigenous runners

I’ve noticed an increase in the number of articles being published on indigenous runners. Many, including a nice write-up in Indian Country Today,  center on Navajo runner Alvina Begay and her attempt to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Although she did not make the U.S. team, she is a remarkable runner. Keep your eyes on Begay and Navajo runner Craig Curley, who also tried out for the Olympics, as we look to the future of indigenous running.

And take a few minutes to view this clip:

In the March 2012 edition of Runner’s World, Kenny Moore wrote a lengthy and insightful article on Oglala Lakota runner Billy Mills. Mills ran cross-country for Haskell Institute (now Haskell Indian Nations University) and the University of Kansas. But he is best known for winning a gold medal in the 10,000 meter race at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Check out the following video:

At the Olympics, Mills also broke Hopi Olympic runner Louis Tewanima’s long standing U.S. record in the same event. Records are meant to be broken (you have to break one to make one). And who better to break Tewanima’s record than another indigenous runner?

Also,  Indian Country Today recently ran a short story about a documentary film titled Racing the Rez. The film is about Hopi and Navajo cross-country runners who competed for Tuba City High School in Tuba City, Arizona. It is scheduled to be released this Fall.

Although I don’t know much about the film or its producer (Brian Truglio), it looks very promising.

Here is the trailer:

As the 2012 Olympic Games in London approaches, expect to see more articles on Native athletes, especially long distance runners.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

Hopi Footrace on Second Mesa

Louis Tewanima standing with his many trophies and medals. He is wearing his Carlisle track suit. Photo courtesy of the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame

In less than a week, family members of Hopi runner Louis Tewanima will host the 37th Annual Louis Tewanima Footrace at the village of Shungopavi on Second Mesa. Tewanima is one of the most celebrated runners in Hopi history and he is best known for winning a silver medal at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden. As I think about the upcoming footrace, I am reminded of another Hopi footrace on Second Mesa that involved Tewanima.

In a previous post, I wrote about a Hopi runner named Philip Zeyouma who competed for Sherman Institute at the same time Tewanima ran for the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania. In April 1912, Zeyouma won the Los Angeles Times Modified Marathon of 12 miles, which earned him an opportunity to compete for the U.S. team in Stockholm. On the other side of the country, Tewanima, who by this time had won several running events, was also scheduled to run in the Olympics.

When news that the two Hopi runners would race against each other in Sweden, excitement spread among the students at both schools. Students at Sherman Institute gloried in the thought that one of their Hopi runners would defeat the famous Louis Tewanima, and the pupils at Carlisle had great confidence that Tewanima would outrun the Hopi runner from Sherman. But the showdown between Zeyouma and Tewanima at the Olympic Games in Sweden never took place.

Shortly before Zeyouma was supposed to leave for Sweden, his father expressed disapproval of his son’s participation in the Olympics. Not wanting to disappoint his father, Zeyouma honored his request and went back to the Hopi Reservation for the summer. However, in my article “Hopi Footraces and American Marathons, 1912-1930,” I note that the

rivalry between the two Hopi runners did not cease when Tewanima migrated back to the Hopi mesas as an Olympian. In September 1912, shortly before they returned to their schools, Tewanima and Zeyouma challenged each other to a race on the Hopi Reservation.  On the day of the race, Hopis from the surrounding villages gathered around the starting line and anxiously watched as the two runners made their mark for the twelve-mile course. Zeyouma proudly wore his “Sherman colors,” while Tewanima “appeared in his Carlisle track suit.”

By wearing their running uniforms, the Hopi athletes saw the event as a race between the two schools and identified themselves according to their school affiliation. However, such a display of school loyalty did not go unchallenged by the other Hopi runners in the crowd. Seconds before the race began, some of the older Hopi men remarked that the “boys did not look like [Hopi] runners” at all, and teased Zeyouma and Tewanima for wearing their running outfits. A New York Times reporter noted that when Tewanima heard the men’s insults, Tewanima replied, “If you don’t like our looks get in, and show what you can do.”

The men promptly accepted his challenge and entered the race with no shoes or track suits, and wore “merely discarded” clothes. Six miles into the race, the older men proved too much for the young runners and Zeyouma and Tewanima quit and left the “race to the barefooted runners in the lead.” Coach Joe Shoulder recalled that the winner was about fifty years old, and he looked like he was “dying of consumption” (tuberculosis).

The outcome of the race provides a telling commentary on running in Hopi culture, as well as the relationship between older and younger runners. While the younger runners migrated to off reservation Indian boarding schools, the vast majority of the Hopi people, including older men who were known for the ability to run long distances, remained at home. Consequently, some of the best long-distance runners in U.S. history received little or no attention by those outside of the Hopi community. Although newspaper reporters seemed surprised that men in their fifties had the ability to defeat the younger athletes, the people knew that other Hopis could easily outrun the Hopi Olympian and the track star from Sherman Institute. [“Hopi Footraces and American Marathons, 1912-1930,” American Quarterly, March 2010, vol. 62, no. 1, p. 87, 88]

On Sunday September 5, 2010, runners of various ages will come together to run a footrace on Second Mesa. They will once again make their mark on the start line and run a course similar to the one taken by Tewanima, Zeyouma, and the older runners of the village. In honor of Tewanima, who still inspires thousands of individuals to run, the annual Louis Tewanima Footrace gives testimony to Tewanima’s legacy as an Olympic runner and the continuation of footraces among the people.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

Philip Zeyouma after winning the 1912 Los Angeles Times Modified Marathon. Photo courtesy of the Sherman Indian Museum


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© Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert and BEYOND THE MESAS, 2009-2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert and BEYOND THE MESAS with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About the author

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert (Hopi) is Professor and Head of the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona.

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Revisiting the Hopi Boarding School Experience at Sherman Institute and the Process of Making Research Meaningful to Community (JAIE, 2018)

Education beyond the Mesas: Hopi Students at Sherman Institute, 1902-1929 (University of Nebraska Press, 2010)

Introduction to Education beyond the Mesas (2010)

The Indian School on Magnolia Avenue: Voices and Images From Sherman Institute (Oregon State University Press, 2012)

Foreward to Don Talayesva’s Sun Chief: An Autobiography of A Hopi Indian (2013)

Foreword to Kevin Whalen’s Native Students at Work: American Indian Labor and Sherman Institute’s Outing Program, 1900-1945

A Second Wave of Hopi Migration (HEQ, 2014)

Marathoner Louis Tewanima and the Continuity of Hopi Running, 1908-1912 (WHQ, 2012). Winner of Spur Award for Best Western Short Nonfiction, Western Writers of America (2013)

Hopi Footraces and American Marathons, 1912-1930 (AQ, 2010)

The Hopi Followers: Chief Tawaquaptewa and Hopi Student Advancement at Sherman Institute, 1906-1909 (JAIE, 2005)

Constitution and Bylaws of the Hopi Tribe (With all amendments, click to download)

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