Smithsonian Magazine

Blazing Summer

LOUIS TEWANIMA WASN’T THE ONLY NATIVE ATHLETE FROM NORTH AMERICA AT THE 1912 SUMMER GAMES

- By Gia Yetikyel

JIM THORPE

Sac and Fox Nation

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The most famous Native athlete in U.S. history, Thorpe won two gold medals at the 1912 Olympics and had a storied career in pro football and baseball. He was also the first president of the American Profession­al Football Associatio­n.

BENJAMIN “JOE” KEEPER

Norway House Cree Nation

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Keeper, of Manitoba, placed fourth in the 10,000-meter race at the 1912 Olympics. In the Canadian Army, he served as a dispatch runner in France in World War I, earning major decoration­s.

DUKE KAHANAMOKU

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Kahanamoku grew up surfing at Waikiki Beach and later popularize­d the ancient Hawaiian sport across the world. As a swimmer, he won a gold and silver medal in freestyle events in the 1912 Olympics.

ANDREW SOCKALEXIS

Penobscot Nation

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After placing second in the 1912 Boston Marathon, Sockalexis placed fourth in that year’s Olympic marathon. His fiancée said she’d marry him only if he won the 1913 Boston Marathon. Though he came in second again, the two still wed.

ALEXANDER WUTTUNEE DECOTEAU

Cree Nation

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Before placing sixth in the 5,000-meter race at the 1912 Olympics, Decoteau was the first Native police officer in Canada. He served in World War I and died during battle in Belgium in 1917.

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