Harlan McKosato: It's time to bring Jim Thorpe home to Oklahoma

Jim Thorpe. Photo from Wikipedia

Harlan McKosato calls for the return of the remains of legendary athlete and Olympian Jim Thorpe to his family from the Sac and Fox Nation in Oklahoma:
It’s a long story but here’s the short version. After his death in April 1953 his third wife Patricia Askew Thorpe, a non-Indian, burst into Thorpe’s traditional Sac and Fox funeral wake with Oklahoma state troopers at her side. She ordered him to be loaded up and whisked him away in the middle of the night, and had him put in a mausoleum. The ceremony was never completed. She started shopping the legendary athlete’s body to the highest bidder.

Two dying coal mining towns called Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk, tucked away in the Poconos of Pennsylvania, went in together to buy his remains for a reported $25,000 and renamed their two towns jointly – the Borough of Jim Thorpe. It was meant to attract tourists, but it only created a trickle. Maybe the NFL would choose the little town for their Hall of Fame location? It didn’t happen.

According to Steve Ward, an Indian law attorney who represents the tribe and Thorpe’s two remaining sons, Richard and William, grandiose plans were made to use Thorpe’s body to reverse the town’s economic fortunes. Plans called for the commercialization of the Jim Thorpe name, to include a football shrine, a museum, a 500-bed hospital, an Olympic stadium and a sporting goods factory. None of these plans were ever realized, and the Borough of Jim Thorpe continues in decline today. Let’s fast forward.

In June of 2010, Thorpe’s sons filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, citing the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, or NAGPRA. The Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma also joined the suit in the U.S. District Court of Pennsylvania to bring Thorpe’s remains back to finish his traditional burial. The delay in filing was because of the son’s respect for the wishes of Thorpe’s daughters to leave him in Pennsylvania. When all the daughters passed away, the sons filed the suit. The case is known as John Thorpe, Sac and Fox Nation et al. v. Borough of Jim Thorpe et al.

Get the Story:
Harlan McKosato: It's Time to Bring Home Jim Thorpe (Indian Country Today 12/21)

Also Today:
Fight over Jim Thorpe's remains continues (The Allenton Morning Call 12/11)

3rd Circuit Decision:
John Thorpe v. Borough of Jim Thorpe (October 23, 2014)

Oral Arguments from the Indianz.Com SoundCloud:

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3rd Circuit won't force town to repatriate Jim Thorpe's remains (10/23)
Town appeals decision to return Jim Thorpe's remains to family (09/05)
Community to appeal decision in Jim Thorpe reburial dispute (5/13)
Editorial: A final resting place for the legendary Jim Thorpe (4/30)
NPR: A truly heartbreaking story of Jim Thorpe and his burial (03/26)