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The American Indian Hall of Fame Finds a New Home

The American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame is taking another step forward in its illustrious history by moving its Hall of Heroes into the Loretto Building in Kansas City, Missouri.

Plans to move the plaques and memorabilia of 106 legendary Native athletes from its current location at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas are in progress. The move is expected to happen in early part of 2015.

The Hall of Fame has been on display at Haskell for 34 years. Through a partnership with the American Indian Center of the Great Plains, it has an opportunity to move one step closer to its own building, American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame president Carol Green said. “We’ve had a hard time raising money, but now we have a chance to do some things we’ve planned for years,” Green told ICTMN. “I love Haskell dearly. All my relatives went there. I taught there. But they didn’t have the room we needed to put up all our plaques or expand. We have some ideas on raising money, and eventually, we want to have our own building.”

Green said they would one day like the displays to be interactive where people can come in and hit a baseball or hit a tennis ball. A place where elementary school kids can come and see the pictures on the wall and interact with the displays and dream of being on display one day.

The HOF will have five offices in The Loretto Building. The building opened in 1903 and served as a Catholic academy for girls until the mid-1980s. It also underwent an $8 million upgrade in 1995. The additional space will display and allow visitors a chance to see pieces that are currently in storage because of Haskell’s limited space.

Learned, whose ancestors include Arapaho legends John and George Levi, talked of visiting with various tribal leaders and utilizing artists to provide paintings and busts of the inductees from their nation. There is also discussion of asking athlete’s families for items to expand displays. “I’ve always thought we needed to start looking at building our own Hall of Fame, one that shows the prestige of what Native Americans have done in the world of sports,” said American Indian Center of the Great Plains president John Learned. “I thought [the Hall of Fame board] just needs a hand up. We have the ability to help raise money and the ability to donate money to help them move forward with the project.”

Robert L. Bennett (Oneida) and Louis R. Bruce (Mohawk/Sioux) founded the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame in 1972. Inductee and Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills, Lakota, was the first coordinator. “I can’t think of a better place to have it than Kansas City,” Mills told ICTMN. “It’s a very, very quality concept and what Johnny is trying to do is incredible. I know him as a friend more than a business man, but I am extremely impressed with idea.”

Long-time Haskell football coach Gary Tanner’s son Brady was one of six athletes inducted in 2013. “I’m excited that it’s been outside my office for all these years, but I’ve always thought there should be more to the Hall of Fame. They have some big name people that have done great things, and they should be honored more than just in the lobby of our gym,” Tanner said. “They will be able to enhance it. I’ll miss it, but I’m glad for what they’ll be able to do for the Indian athletes by making it more accessible to more people.”

Former Arizona State football player Jim Warne, Lakota, was inducted in 2004. “We definitely need to get more exposure,” said Warne, who helped the Sun Devils win the 1987 Rose Bowl. “They’ve done an incredible job with the limited funding they’ve had. It would be nice to see multi-tribes participate with this project.”