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3rd Circuit won't force town to repatriate Jim Thorpe's remains

Jim Thorpe. Photo from Wikipedia

A community in Pennsylvania does not have to turn over the remains of legendary athlete and Olympian Jim Thorpe to his sons, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today.

Thorpe, who was a member of the Sac and Fox Nation, died in 1953 and was due to be buried in Oklahoma, where he was born and raised. But his wife had the body taken to Pennsylvania, where a monument was erected in a newly-created borough called Jim Thorpe.

Thorpe's sons eventually filed a lawsuit under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, which allows lineal descendants to claim the remains of their ancestors. A federal judge agreed that the community was a "museum" and was required to turn over the remains.

On appeal, the 3rd Circuit reversed. A three-judge panel refused to accept a broad definition of "museum" that would include the borough.

"Here, it is clear that the congressional intent to regulate institutions such as museums and to remedy the historical atrocities inflicted on Native Americans, including plundering of their graves, is not advanced by interpreting 'museum' to include a gravesite that Thorpe’s widow intended as Thorpe’s final resting place," the court stated.

"Thorpe’s remains are located at their final resting place and have not been disturbed," the court continued. "We find that applying NAGPRA to Thorpe’s burial in the borough is such a clearly absurd result and so contrary to Congress’s intent to protect Native American burial sites that the borough cannot be held to the requirements imposed on a museum under these circumstances."

Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case, Thorpe v. Borough of Jim Thorpe. Oral arguments can be found on the Indianz.Com SoundCloud.

Get the Story:
Jim Thorpe, Pa. can keep the remains of namesake athlete (AP 10/23)
Court: Olympian, Native Oklahoman Jim Thorpe’s Remains Should Not Be Moved (Reuters 10/23)
Battle Over Jim Thorpe’s Remains Has Ended (WNEP 10/23)

3rd Circuit Decision:
John Thorpe v. Borough of Jim Thorpe (October 23, 2014)

Oral Arguments from the Indianz.Com SoundCloud:

Related Stories:
Town appeals decision to return Jim Thorpe's remains to family (09/05)
Community to appeal decision in Jim Thorpe reburial dispute (5/13)
Editorial: A final resting place for the legendary Jim Thorpe (4/30)
NPR: A truly heartbreaking story of Jim Thorpe and his burial (03/26)

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