Born on Sac and Fox reservation in 1887, Jim Thorpe was a gifted athlete. The story is told in Thorpe's voice, beginning with life on the reservation and various Indian schools. Thorpe finally ends up at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, where they joined the football team. The football coach was none other than Glenn "Pop" Warner. In the 1900's Carlisle football team was a powerhouse defeating many of the Ivy League teams. Thorpe talks about the games and Native American pride.
"October 12 was the Syracuse game, played in Buffalo to take advantage of the bigger field. Having it there also meant that it was right between the Iroquois reservations in New York and Canada. Indians poured in over the bridge from Canada to see us play. It may be hard for people now to understand how important the success of our football team was to a lot of Indian people- people who knew nothing more about football than the fact that our all Indian team was knocking the stuffing out those White teams who thought they were the best. Indian people had lost so much at the time- their land, their ways of life, their languages, and even their children were being taken from them. Any kind of Indian victory was an inspiration for them."
Sports biographies are great revealing so much about the social climate of the time. Besides learning about Thorpe's excellence on the football field- his two 1912 Olympic gold medals and the controversy that followed, there's the story behind Indian schools. The mistreatment of the students, and not being allowed to speak their native languages.
"There was a lot of liberal people in the East who agreed with his ideas that an Indian was just a white man bathed in red. They liked his motto Kill the Indian and save the man. The government liked his ideas too. Fighting the Indian was costing more money than it would to civilize him. I think part of it, too was because they figured that having the children of powerful Indian leaders sent off to school would help keep the tribes in line."
Bruchac made Jim Thorpe come alive in this biography, I love it. Football fans will love all the references to the early years of football. However, this is a biography that transcends the field and should be embraced by non sports fans and sports fans alike. Age 10up