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61 Tribes Represented at Jim Thorpe Native American Games in Oklahoma City

Susan Shannon

Native American athletes from 61 tribes from across the nation competed in the second annual Jim Thorpe Native American Games.  Athletes competed in activities such as basketball, golf, martial arts, wrestling and softball at several sports venues.

The Games kicked off at Remington Park when Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby proclaimed “Let the games begin” after the parade of athletes passed the reviewing stand of dignitaries that included Muscogee Creek Nation Chief George Tiger, Sac and Fox Principal Chief George Thurman and the son of the man who ABC’s Wide World of Sports called the “Athlete of the 20th Century”, William Thorpe.

Approaching the Abe Lemmons Arena on the Oklahoma City University campus, young Native Americans in basketball uniforms and their families are everywhere, and excitement is evident as they hurry in to the venue. 

A proud mom and pop, Marla and Nick Quetone, from the Kiowa Nation,  watched as three basketball games played simultaneously.  Marla Quetone says the games mean a lot. “My daughter, she loves to play basketball.”

More than a century ago, Thorpe won gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon in the 1912 Olympicsheld in Stockholm, Sweden.  He won both events and two gold medals, having placed first in eight events.  He was stripped off his medals after it was learned Thorpe had played a summer of semi-professional baseball for $2 a game. 

Through efforts by relatives, teammates and Jim Thorpe biographer Robert Wheeler, his medals were reinstated in 1982, nearly 30 years after his death.  Thorpe was 64 when he died.

Thorpe, considered the world’s greatest athlete, was Sac and Fox and born near Prague, Oklahoma.  In a 1999 poll, Thorpe finished the century as the third-best athlete of all time among sports writers.  Balloting favored baseball legend Babe Ruth and basketball great Michael Jordan as first and second in the poll, respectively.

Of the Jim Thorpe Native American Games,  Nick Quetone said, “Its nice, its real nice. It brings all the Indian tribes together to play. Its real nice.”   Jim Thorpe’s status as a Native American hero is a key factor in the success of the sports event.  Queton said, “Oh yeah, its something for them to look up to and something to shoot for.”

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