Get to know a true G.O.A.T.
Jim Thorpe, a.k.a. Wa-Tho-Huk (meaning Bright Path) was a Native American athlete, actor, and humanitarian who dominated in nearly every sport he played, despite all odds. At the 1912 Olympics in Sweden, he brought home two gold medals for the United States — one for the pentathlon and one for the decathlon. He broke records at the events and was proclaimed “World’s Greatest Athlete” by King Gustav the V.
Many talk about his athletic strength, but few highlight his resilience. Ahead of the games, Jim Thorpe’s shoes were stolen but instead of giving in, he scoured the area grabbing two mismatched shoes from two different garbage cans. Despite the challenge, he went on to take the gold.
The setbacks didn’t end there, however. About six months after he won, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stripped Jim of his rightfully earned medals and champion status. He was heartbroken, but not defeated.
Jim wasn’t just an Olympic gold champion, though. He went on to become a pro athlete in both football and baseball. He always played the game with a higher purpose, and went on to coach football, and was even elected as the first President of the NFL.
Living through two World Wars, the Spanish Flu, and the Great Depression, Jim’s continued resilience became an asset as he set his sights on a new career path: acting. And in true Bright Path style, it wasn’t really about being in the spotlight — it was about bringing real Native representation to the big screen.
As his hard-earned athletic fame opened doors for him in Hollywood, Jim would get calls late at night about helping out fellow Native Americans looking for work. With the help of Cecelia Blanchard, Jim co-founded the Indian Center, later named the Native American Actors Guild, helping hundreds of Native people to secure jobs in TV and cinema.
It’s no wonder that he earned the nickname “Akapamata,” meaning “Caregiver” in Sac & Fox. There are countless stories about Jim’s tireless work to lend a hand to folks in Native communities across the US.
For Jim, it wasn’t just about being recognized as a champion athlete or a movie star. It was about using his celebrity status to amplify Native American stories that needed to be told. Thorpe didn’t just give 100% when playing sports — he gave it his all when caring for his people, too.
And that’s why, all these years later, it’s so important to keep his legacy alive and continue to share Native American stories of resilience and strength.
Jim has taught us that whatever you’re after, keep going.