In the autumn of 1912, the football team from Carlisle Indian Industrial School took the field at the U.S. Military Academy, home to the better-equipped West Points Cadets. Sportswriters billed the game as a sort of rematch, pitting against each other the descendants of U.S. soldiers and American Indians who fought on the battlefield only 20 years earlier. But for lightning-fast Jim Thorpe and the other Carlisle players, that day’s game was about skill, strategy, and determination. Known for unusual formations and innovative plays, the Carlisle squad was out to prove just one thing―that it was the best football team in all the land. Ages 6–10.
About The Author
Art Coulson, Cherokee, was an award-winning journalist and the first executive director of the Wilma Mankiller Foundation in Oklahoma. His first children’s book, The Creator’s Game: A Story of Baaga’adowe/Lacrosse (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2013), told of the deep spiritual and cultural connections of American Indian people to the sport of lacrosse. Art still plays traditional Cherokee stickball, an original version of lacrosse, when he is visiting friends and family in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Art lives in Apple Valley, Minnesota, with his wife and two daughters.
Read Aloud Tips
- Introduce the book, author and illustrations.
- Discuss the history behind U.S. and Native American relations and some of the lasting effects its left on Native Americans.
- Be creative in ways to read this book aloud, such as reading the book as if you were a sports announcer.
- Use debate centers to have students discuss how sports can play a large role in our cultural and what wins can me to specific groups of people.
“Coulson’s straightforward account informs readers that it was at Carlisle where Jim turned his talent for running to track, encouraged by coach Glenn “Pop” Warner. Though Jim was small for his age, he excelled in baseball, lacrosse, and hockey—and his ability to dodge bigger players landed him on Carlisle’s varsity football team. . . .Hardcastle’s finelined ink-and-watercolor illustrations project an appropriately bygone air, depicting Thorpe in motion more often than not. . . .the book is a welcome celebration of this Native American sports hero. . . .Coulson (Cherokee) does mention a more personal family history in the backmatter, as well as the stripping of Thorpe’s Olympic medals (and their posthumous restoration)…” – Kirkus Reviews