Jim Thorpe (Sac & Fox/Potawatomi) is part of the Indigenous history of Indiana University. Deemed the "World's Greatest Athlete," Thorpe played collegiate and professional football, professional baseball, and basketball and was a gold medal winner in multiple events at the 1912 Summer Olympics. In addition, he served as an assistant football coach at IU in 1915.
Portrait of the "World's Greatest Athlete"
November is Native American Heritage Month. All across IU's campuses, individuals are celebrating the work and cultures of Native and Indigenous communities bringing the contemporary Native experience to the forefront of people's minds through a variety of events, discussions, and webinars.
"We always say it's about heritage, not history," Nicky Belle, director of the First Nations Educational and Cultural Center (FNECC), said.
As part of Native American Heritage Month, the FNECC has partnered with the Union Board to bring artist Steven Paul Judd to IU as an "artist in residence" to paint a portrait of Jim Thorpe from November 8-10 from 10 a.m - 5 p.m in the Indiana University Memorial Union.
Thorpe, a member of the Sac and Fox Nation, is an Olympic gold medalist and former IU assistant football coach and is considered one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century. "People remember Thorpe as a great athlete," Belle said. "But not a lot of people know about his connection with IU, that one of the most famous athletes of the 20th century is Native and is a part of IU history."
According to Belle, bringing Judd to campus was in the works for a while, and he is very excited about this opportunity. "I first met him in 2016 when he came to IU for a previous Native American Heritage Month," Belle said. "Since the IMU has been working on indigenizing their space and making it more welcoming and inclusive of Native peoples, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to bring Judd to IU."
Additionally, Belle notes that the first meeting of IU's Indigenous Faculty and Staff Council will happen in November. "I want to thank Lem Watson, who has been nothing but supportive," Belle said. "This council is a wonderful way for Native faculty and staff members to connect with and foster mentoring opportunities for Native students across our campus."