As the legendary Jim Thorpe, Sac and Fox, is to be honored on Saturday morning in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, where a larger-then-life bronze statue of Thorpe throwing the discus will be unveiled, members of Thorpe’s family are engaged in a lawsuit that aims to bring Thorpe’s body back to his birthplace of Oklahoma.
As John Branch of the New York Times reports, this decades-long dispute has thrust this small town into the spotlight. Jim Thorpe’s son William is among the many members of the family who wants his father’s body to be removed from a town that his father very likely never visited. The mausoleum where his body is interred has become a roadside attraction.
Jack Thorpe, the youngest of Jim Thorpe’s kids, says that the issue is not that the Pennsylvania town has improperly honored his father, but rather it is time to bring Jim Thorpe home to a proper resting place. Last June, as the Times reported, Jack Thorpe sued the town of Jim Thorpe in United States District Court, citing the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990. The suit’s claim was that as a lineal descendant of Jim Thorpe, Jack Thorpe had a legal claim to his father’s remains.
Then on Feb 4, Judge A. Richard Caputo ruled that if Jack Thorpe was joined by his surviving brothers and the Sac and Fox Tribe, the suit could continue. Jack Thorpe then passed away on Feb 22 at the age of 73. William and Richard, his surviving brothers, and the Sac and Fox Tribe, joined the lawsuit just this past May 2.
The town is joined by members of Thorpe’s extended family in the fight to keep his remains in Pennsylvania. Michael Koehler, the oldest of Thorpe’s grandkids, will speak at the event on Saturday, May 21, and says that his side of the family believes Jim Thorpe, PA, has been a honorable host to Jim Thorpe’s remains, and that the town should fight as hard as Jim Thorpe fought in his life when he did things like win the Olympic decathlon and pentathlon in 1912 and refuse to lose this legal battle.