Haaland Seeks to Restore Olympic Records for Native Olympian Jim Thorpe
Washington, D.C. – Today Congresswoman Deb Haaland (NM-01) introduced a resolution recognizing the achievements of James “Jim” Thorpe and requesting that the International Olympic Committee correct his 1912 Olympic records. The resolution is supported by 20 original cosponsors in the U.S. House, and comes as part of Haaland’s work to recognize the contributions of Native Americans to the United States during Native American Heritage Month.
“Any person who has represented our country honorably and brought victory home for the United States in Olympics is an American hero and should be recognized as one, but inherent biases took away that honor from Jim Thorpe. This resolution not only recognizes Jim Thorpe for the hero that he is, it also ensures that the records reflect his incredible achievements,” said Congresswoman Deb Haaland.
Jim Thorpe’s granddaughter, Anita Thorpe said, “This would be a dream come true and would ensure Jim Thorpe's legacy continues for future generations to come.”
Jim Thorpe Wathahuck-Brightpath, of the Thunder Clan of the Sac and Fox Tribe, competed in the 1912 Olympic Games for the United States of America, even though Native Americans still were not recognized as citizens. He competed in both the pentathlon and decathlon, winning gold medals in both. The International Olympic Committee stripped his medals due to his having previously received meager professional pay as a baseball player and erased his records from the record books. While his medals were eventually restored and returned to his family, his records were incorrectly entered as a co-gold medal winner, instead of his true status as a sole gold medal winner.
His achievements for Indian Country have not been forgotten. Earlier this year, Haaland traveled to the U.S. Army War College for Jim Thorpe Sports Days in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the site of a former Indian boarding school. Jim Thorpe Sports Days, sponsored by the Army War College, celebrates the athleticism, teamwork and excellence of Jim Thorpe, who was also sent to attend Carlisle Indian Industrial School as a child.
Full text of the resolution is available here.
U.S. House co-sponsors include Reps. Tom Cole (Okla.-4), TJ Cox (Calif.-21), Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii-2), Denny Heck (Wash.-10), Kevin Hern (Okla.-01), Kendra Horn (Okla.-5), Mike Kelly (Penn. -16), Raúl M Grijalva (Ariz.-3), Rick Larsen (Wash.-02), Barbara Lee (Calif.-13), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas-18), Andy Levin (Mich.-09), Frank Lucas (Okla.-3), Markwayne Mullin (Okla-2), Grace Napolitano (Calif.-32), Tom O'Halleran (Ariz.-01), Scott Perry (Penn.-10), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.-13), Norma Torres (Calif.-35), and Don Young (Alaska-at large).
Groups that have been involved in ensuring the legacy of Jim Thorpe lives on praised the introduction of Haaland’s resolution:
Mike James, Jim Thorpe Museum & Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame
“Mr. Thorpe trained, competed, and earned his Olympic records and medals. With his Olympic medals having been restored to the Thorpe family, it only makes sense that all of his Olympic records should, also, be recognized, restored and recorded.”
Sac & Fox Nation
“…The Sac and Fox Nation does hereby fully endorses and supports the House of Representatives Resolution that Jim Thorpe’s Olympic records by the International Olympic Committee should be re-stored and reinstated for his unprecedented accomplishments during the 1912 Olympic Games.”
James Parker Shield, CEO, National Native American Hall of Fame
“That accomplishment has inspired many Native Americans for decades, and he stands as an iconic and legendary figure for all Native Americans in the U.S…. On behalf of myself and the Board of Directors of the National Native American Hall of Fame, [we] strongly support the Congressional Resolution seeking to have Jim Thorpe’s Olympic records restored by the International Olympic Committee.”
Sandra Cianiulli, President, Carlisle Indian School Project
“His many jaw dropping accomplishments were a result of pure talent, angst and grit, giving the best of himself every time… Jim Thorpe was not just an Olympic legend, he is an INDIAN Olympic legend, who deserves a happy ending for his excellence in sports, integrity, and dedication to a safe and just future for all athletes.”
Dr. Roger Goudy, President, Amateur Athletics Union
"The AAU applauds all those who worked so diligently in getting Jim Thorpe’s medals reinstated in the past. Since 1888, the AAU has championed athletes like Thorpe, a tremendous multi-sport athlete. Along with the return of his medals, we feel must come the acknowledgment and recognition of Thorpe as the sole winner of the 1912 Olympic pentathlon and decathlon. In 1973, the AAU restored the amateur status of Thorpe which it had previously revoked. Recently, the AAU honored Thorpe, posthumously, with the AAU Gussie Crawford Lifetime Achievement Award - created to honor outstanding athletes whose efforts, both on and off their playing surface, paved the way for great change in amateur sports. Jim Thorpe was one such trailblazing athlete and we are honored to support this resolution."