Knight Library unveils Jim Thorpe exhibit

Jim Thorpe, a member of the Sac and Fox tribe, is often hailed as “the world’s greatest athlete.” His fame comes from the versatility of his athleticism. His sporting mastery ranged from professional baseball, football and basketball to olympic gold medals in the 1912 pentathlon and decathlon. From 1996 to 2001 he was awarded ABC’s Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Century award.

As part of this year’s Native American Heritage Month, the University of Oregon’s Knight Library is housing an exhibit honoring the great athlete.

A group of individuals from Eugene’s Native American community and the Native American Student Union, got together and created this exhibit for the University and the public. The creators of this project come from many different academic departments and backgrounds, making the exhibit the result of a large collaboration within the UO.

One of the creators of this project, Dr. Kirby Brown, an English professor, said the collaboration process — while difficult — is illustrative of the UO’s commitment to its Native American students.

“Many institutions don’t make it a priority to reach out to the Native American community,” said Brown, “Thanks to dedicated faculty members, and student groups like NASU, this isn’t so much of an issue at the University of Oregon, though it can certainly get better.”

The exhibit officially started Wednesday, after an opening ceremony which included singing, drumming, and key speakers.

Gordon Bettles, Stueward of the Many Nations Longhouse, spoke last at the ceremony and then sang a power song from the Klamath tribe to honor the Thorpe family and the exhibit.

“Jim Thorpe is important because he is a role model.” Brown said, “His legend lives on to remind us to do our best, because he did his best.”

The exhibit has been seven months in the making. From extensively researching the athlete, to gathering all the content and photos, it was no small undertaking, and no coincidence that it has opened in November, according to Lindsey Watchman, a University of Oregon Admissions Counselor who was highly involved with the exhibit’s development.

“About seven months ago we knew that we wanted this exhibit for November, the Native American Heritage Month. We want to see an intuitional commitment to the Native American community yearly during November, and this is part of that work,” Watchman said. “This is an opportunity to educate people about a great athlete who is a source of pride for all of us.”

The exhibit is across from the circulation desk of the main floor of the Knight Library, and will be there through January.

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