Two documentaries associated with the upcoming movie about Olympian Jim Thorpe were unveiled at the luncheon hosted this week by the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians, which is providing funding for the feature film.
“It is very important to tell and see the stories of Indian Country, our history and education of our culture,” tribal chairman Kevin Day said. “Jim Thorpe was an American icon and world-renowned athlete who was also a Native American during a difficult time in our history. We are very excited and proud to be a part of telling this crucial story.”
The tribe was the first to provide money for “Bright Path: The Jim Thorpe Story” and has since been joined by the Mohegan Tribe, Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, Tonto Apache Tribe, Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria, Chicken Ranch Rancheria, and Sealaska.
Academy Award winning actress Angelina Jolie is serving as one of the producers.
Shown to the group gathered in the Four Winds conference room at Black Oak were “Our Stories Matter,” in which various people talk about the importance of telling the Native American story from their own perspective, and “Inspired by Thorpe,” in which artist Steven Paul Judd of the Kiowa-Choctaw tribe describes his process in creating an art piece about Thorpe.
Judd gave Day a portrait of Thorpe he created from news and magazine clippings about the athlete, who was the first Native American to win an Olympic Gold Medal, when he came in first in the pentathlon and decathlon in 1912.
A member of the Sac and Fox Nation, Thorpe is considered one of the greatest, most versatile athletes of modern sports. He also played football, baseball and basketball.
“It is important to tell this story for my daughter, my mother and my people,” said Chris Taylor, executive producer and a member of the Chitimacha Tribe.
Martin Sensmeier, a member of the Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska who will portray Thorpe in the film, said he is honored to help tell the story of Jim Thorpe.
”The power of storytelling is real, not just for native people but for all people.” he said.
Billy Mills, a 1964 Olympic gold medalist and member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, said, “Jim Thorpe wasn’t my hero. Jim Thorpe was my God.
Mills said, the movie is important because Thorpe’s story has been told several times but never by Native Americans.
“The stories that have been told in the past have excluded people of color,” he said.
Mills said his father told him “the pursuit of a dream heals broken souls.”
“A Jim Thorpe movie could help our young find their magic and could be a vision of hope to them,” he said.
Executive producer Abraham Taylor said Thorpe medals were taken from him illegally. The medals were taken ostensibly because he was paid for semi-professional baseball before he went to the Olympics. But many believe the true reason was his ethnicity. Thirty years after his death in 1953, the medals were restored.
The film’s title “Bright Path: The Jim Thorpe Story” got its title from Thorpe’s native name, Wa-Tho-Huk– translated as “a path illuminated by a great flash of lightning,” but often simplified to “Bright Path.”
There is no shooting schedule set or completion date predicted.