Posts Tagged 'Native athletes'

Hopi Runners: Crossing the Terrain between Indian and American

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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.

 

 

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

A Hopi runner and his marathon trophy

Photograph by Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

Most people who visit the Sherman Indian Museum in Riverside, California, see this first place trophy without knowing who won it. Marathon officials did not engrave the athlete’s name on the trophy, but they did include the date and the event, which was the Vallejo Pre-Olympic National Marathon held in California on December 22, 1929.

At one point in the school’s history, the student’s at Sherman Institute knew who won this award. But as time passed, the trophy, one of the largest in the Museum’s collection, became disassociated from its owner.

The trophy belongs to Hopi runner Harry Chaca from the village of Polacca on First Mesa. He was among the great Hopi runners of the twentieth century. Chaca attended Sherman in the 1920s and early 1930s and he earned several marathon honors while a student at the school.

I wrote about Chaca and his victory of the 1929 Vallejo Pre-Olympic National Marathon in my article “Hopi Footraces and American Marathons, 1912-1930” (American Quarterly, March 2010). I note that prior to this event, Chaca had won other prestigious marathons and his reputation as a great runner spread far beyond the United States.

In Japan, for example, a runner named Yoshikio Sudsuki heard that Chaca was the best runner in America and so he traveled to the U.S. for the sole purpose of competing against the Hopi from Polacca. But at the 1929 Vallejo Pre-Olympic National Marathon, Chaca’s speed and endurance proved too much for the forty-nine year old runner from Tokyo. In my article I write that the

Hopi runner ran at a “killing pace to win” the full marathon in two hours, forty-one minutes, and twenty-five seconds, a “full second better than the performance of Alpien Stenroos” in the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris. One of the fifty thousand spectators of the marathon recalled that Chaca’s “victory” was “all the more noteworthy for his sensational finish. After trailing for twenty-three miles it was at that mark that he applied a final burst of speed that sent him ahead” of Hopi runner Franklin Suhu. In addition to winning the race, Chaca set a new American marathon record, which immediately confirmed his place as the top long-distance runner in the nation. [p. 91]

Shortly after Chaca’s marathon victory, school officials took his trophy and displayed it in a large cabinet located in Sherman’s administration building (now the Sherman Indian Museum). According to school administrators, all individually won trophies belonged to the school.

At times Hopi students attempted to obtain their trophy cups after their terms at Sherman had expired.  During the 1940s, for example, Hopi runner Philip Zeyouma asked the school’s superintendent if he could reclaim his trophies (pictured on the front cover of American Quarterly), but school officials refused to honor his request.

More than eighty years after Chaca won the Vallejo Pre-Olympic National Marathon, his trophy remains at the Sherman Indian Museum. Although government officials consider the award to be property of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the trophy will always belong to Harry Chaca and his family.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

“Hopi Footraces and American Marathons, 1912-1930” (American Quarterly, March 2010)

For the past three years I have been working on a book on Hopi long distance runners and the American sport republic. Part of this project includes an article that I wrote titled “Hopi Footraces and American Marathons, 1912-1930.” This article recently appeared in the March 2010 Issue of American Quarterly (Vol. 62, No. 1, pp. 77-101). The American Quarterly is the flagship journal of the American Studies Association.

The photograph featured on the cover of the journal (pictured above) is of two trophy cups that Hopi runner Philip Zeyouma won at Sherman Institute. I took this photo at the Sherman Indian Museum in Riverside, California. Not long after the school established its cross-country team, Zeyouma won the Los Angeles Times Modified Marathon in April 1912. His victory also gave him an opportunity to compete in the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden.

When Hopis such as Zeyouma, Harry Chaca, Guy Maktima and Franklin Suhu competed on the Sherman cross-country team, and Louis Tewanima ran for the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, their cultural identities challenged white American perceptions of modernity and placed them in a context that had national and international dimensions. These dimensions linked Hopi runners to other athletes from different parts of the world, including Ireland and Japan, and they caused non-Natives to reevaluate their understandings of sports, nationhood, and the cultures of American Indian people.

This article is also a story about Hopi agency, and the complex and various ways Hopi runners navigated between tribal dynamics, school loyalties, and a country that closely associated sports with U.S. nationalism. It calls attention to certain cultural philosophies of running that connected Hopi runners to their village communities, and the internal and external forces that strained these ties when Hopis competed in national and international running events.

The back cover of the journal (pictured below) features a photograph that I took on the edge of Third Mesa near the village of Orayvi. At one point in the article I describe how one can stand in this location and see for miles in all directions:

To the south, the land extends beyond the Hopi mesas and the silhouette of Nuvatukiyaovi, or the San Francisco Peaks, is visible in the distance. In the valleys below, corn, melon, and bean fields stand out as green patches against a backdrop of earth and sandstone. From on top of the mesa one can enjoy the sweet smell of burning cedar, hear and feel the wind blowing over the mesa edge, and behold a breathtaking landscape surrounded by a canopy of deep blue sky. Looking east toward the village of Shungopavi on Second Mesa, running trails stretch from Orayvi like veins that connect and bring life to each of the Hopi villages. The trails near Orayvi give testimony to the tradition of running in Hopi culture and the continuance of running among today’s Hopi people. [p. 79]

I am indebted to several individuals who helped me revise this essay, including my colleagues at the University of Illinois, various Hopi and non-Hopi scholars, the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office, Lorene Sisquoc of the Sherman Indian Museum, and American Quarterly editors Curtis Marez, Jeb Middlebrook and Stacey Lynn.

If you would like a PDF copy of this article, please feel free to email me at sakiestewa@gmail.com, or submit a comment to this post.

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

See also BEYOND THE MESAS post: Hopi runners article available for download


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© Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert and BEYOND THE MESAS, 2009-2018. 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 of American Indian Studies and History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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New book on Hopi runners set to launch in October!

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

Education beyond the Mesas – Introduction (click image to download)

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

Sun Chief: An Autobiography of A Hopi Indian by Don C. Talayesva, New foreword by Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert (Sept. 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 (History of Education Quarterly, August 2014)

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

“Hopi Footraces and American Marathons, 1912-1930”, American Quarterly, Vol. 62, No. 1, March Issue 2010 (Click image to download article)

“‘The Hopi Followers’: Chief Tawaquaptewa and Hopi Student Advancement at Sherman Institute, 1906-1909”, Journal of American Indian Education, (Click image to download article)

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

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