The “Bring Jim Thorpe Home” campaign launched Wednesday after lawyers for Thorpe’s sons petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to return their father’s remains from Pennsylvania to Indian lands in his native Oklahoma.
“Fulfilling our father’s dream of being buried on his beloved tribal lands has become our life’s work,” William Thorpe, one of Jim’s sons told KFOR.com. “But this case extends beyond our family. It represents the proper recognition of a law intended to protect the rights of Native Americans. For too long, Native Americans have been disregarded in our society. In taking this case, the Supreme Court can not only help our family finally have closure, but it can help prevent continuing discrimination against Native Americans across the country.”
The campaign, which was created by Thorpe’s family, was introduced during a press conference in Oklahoma City, and was preceded by a staged reading of My Father’s Bones, a short play that recounts the struggle of Jim Thorpe’s sons to recover his remains, a press release said. Activists Suzan Shown Harjo and Mary Kathryn Nagle, who authored the play, were in attendance.
Thorpe’s third wife, Patsy, allegedly interrupted his funeral in Shawnee, Okla. in 1953, and with the help of an Oklahoma state trooper, removed his body. Thorpe is memorialized at a roadside mausoleum in Pennsylvania.
For years, Thorpe’s three sons from his second marriage, Richard, William and John (deceased), have fought for the legal right to relocate their father by, in part, invoking the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990. In December, ICTMN reported that Former Colorado Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell and the National Congress of the American Indians (NCAI) joined Thorpe’s sons when they each filed an Amicus Curiae to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on December 8, the same day that Thorpe’s sons asked the same court to rehear the case. The court had earlier ruled that Thorpe should remain in the mausoleum in a Pennsylvania borough named after him. His sons and the Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma appealed the ruling.
Thorpe was named “The Greatest Athlete of the First Half of the Century" by the Associated Press, after the football, basketball and baseball sports legend won Olympic gold medals for the 1912 pentathlon and decathlon.
Jim Thorpe died of a heart attack in 1953. He was 64.