Indian Athletes Just Don’t Stand A Chance
In 1912, Harold Anson Bruce, coach of the undefeated Caucasian Lafayette College track team, had a team so good that other schools refused to even compete against them. Desperate to find some competitors and after hearing rumors that a coach, “Pop” Warner, at the Carlisle Indian School had a contingent, Bruce invited the First Nation rivals to compete in an Alumni Day dual track-and-field meet. The Indian School accepted.
On May 25th Bruce arrived with his forty-eight man undefeated squad to welcome the visitors’ train. When Warner stepped off the train, it was with a very poorly equipped team of only five of his track squad. “Where are the rest of your Indians?” Bruce demanded. Warner replied, “I’ve got enough.” Bruce asked, “How many exactly?” Warner replied, “Five.” Bruce said, “But Pop, I’ve got a team of forty eight elite athletes, and it’s an eleven-event program. This is a disaster. Your Indian boys simply don’t have a chance.” Warner looked him dead in the eye and said, “Wanna bet?”
Unbeaten Squad Had Been Humiliated
The meet was indeed a disaster – for Bruce and his star athletes. At the end of the day, Lafayette College’s unbeaten squad had been humiliated by a rag-tag group of “Indians” who’d been forced into a residential school.
One of the First Nation competitors won the pole vault, high jump, broad jump, shot put, discus, 120-yard high hurdles and 220-yard low hurdles, but “slumped” to third place in the 100-yard sprint. His teammates contributed five more victories and the Carlisle School Indians beat arguably the best athletes in the United States, at the time, 71 points to 41. Oh, the name of the athlete who won so many events? Jim Thorpe, often recognized as the greatest athlete in all of sporting history.
Yes, this is a sad, but true story, that for some had a better ending than for others. It was an amazing demonstration of the remarkable talents and abilities our First Nations have. The Indian boys that coach ‘Pops” picked, were all remarkable. For instance, the one that won the long distance race, used to race trains through the desert before the white people tore him from his tribe, and he would race them for hundreds of miles! Take a few minutes to read on up on them, and their football team (Google ‘Carlisle Indian School’), they were all a remarkable bunch!
It happened. Of course Jim Thorpe was the main point scorer. Another all american was Louis Tewanima, future silver medalist in the 10,000 meter run. And until 1964 the Only american to medal in that event. And until 2012 one of two Native Americans who were the only americans to ever medal in that event. Billy Mills was the other one. In 2012 Galen Rupp became a silver medalist. LOL I’m thinking we will find some Native American ancestry in him somewhere.