Published on Jul 15, 2022
Washington, D.C. | Proclaimed by many as the greatest athlete of all time, Jim Thorpe is now recognized as the sole champion of the decathlon and pentathlon in the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games. Today, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) officially acknowledged the feat 110 years after its achievement.
“James Francis Thorpe, or Wa-tho-huk, ‘Bright Path’ in his Native language, has inspired our people for generations. He was a champion who did, indeed, brighten the path for hundreds of Native people who have lifted themselves up, against all odds, to achieve greatness,” said Fawn Sharp, President of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). NCAI is the largest Native American organization serving more than 500 Tribal Nations in the United States.
“The light of true greatness can never be extinguished no matter the forces of darkness that seek to deny it. Jim Thorpe’s light will eternally shine to inspire generations of our youth to believe in themselves and the infinite power of their God-given gifts, talents, and dreams,” said President Sharp.
The IOC stripped Thorpe of his gold medals for the events in 1913 for playing minor league baseball for meager earnings while he was in college. The IOC did return replica medals to the Thorpe family in 1982, but fell short of making true amends by designating him as a co-champion of the events he clearly won.
“The National Congress of American Indians applauds this new action and congratulates the family of this great hero, as well as Bright Path Strong, a Native American organization largely responsible for this achievement,” said President Sharp.
Jim Thorpe, Sac and Fox Nation and Potawatomi, was the first Native American to win a gold medal for the United States in the Olympic Games. Born on May 28, 1888, in Prague, Oklahoma, to Hiram Thorpe and Charlotte Vieux, Thorpe is considered one of the most talented and versatile athletes in modern sports. He was a football star at Carlisle Indian College and, following his feats in the Olympics, became a professional athlete.
“Football, baseball, basketball, track and even hockey - he played them all at the highest level with an ability that was truly beyond belief,” said President Sharp. “Native Americans all across this country know his name and speak it with great honor.”
Thorpe played professional baseball for the Cleveland Indians (now known as the Cleveland Guardians), the Cincinnati Reds, the New York Giants, and the Boston Braves. He also played six years in the National Football League and was named to the Football Hall of Fame in its inaugural year of 1963.
About the National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information, visit www.ncai.org.