Native Village 
Youth and Education News
May, 2013
Jim Thorpe's Sons Win Federal Lawsuit Against Jim Thorpe,  Pennsylvania
Condensed by Native Village
Pennsylvania: Bill and Richard Thorpe, the two surviving children of sports great Jim Thorpe, have won a critical ruling in federal court. The ruling could clear the way for Thorpe's remains to be moved from a Pennsylvania mausoleum and reinterred on American Indian land in Oklahoma.

U.S. District Judge Richard Caputo ruled in favor of Thorpe's sons and against Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, a borough that bears Thorpe's name. Caputo says the town itself amounts to a museum under the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation  Act.

The borough may appeal the decision.

Meanwhile, the brothers are in the legal process of returning their father, known as the "Greatest Athlete in the World," to Sac and Fox land in central Oklahoma.

“They and their brothers and other members of the family have wanted this and have worked for this for a long time,” said the Thorpes' attorney, Stephen R. Ward. “They well remember how the wishes of the Indian members of the family were not respected concerning their father’s burial.”

Jim Thorpe died without a will in 1953 at age 64. His third wife, Patricia Thorpe, made a deal with two merging towns in the Poconos, Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk, to name the new town after him.  For 60 years, Thorpes remains have been kept in a borough-owned roadside memorial along the Lehigh  River.

Caputo wrote that the result may seem at odds with notions of commercial or contract law.

“Congress, however, recognized larger and different concerns in such circumstances, namely, the sanctity of the Native American culture’s treatment of the remains of those of Native American ancestry,” the judge said in his  decision. “It did so against a history of exploitation of Native American artifacts and remains for commercial purposes.”


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