US Supreme Court Rejects Appeal To Move Jim Thorpe's Body Back To OK

Monday, October 5th 2015, 6:58 pm
By: Dana Hertneky

A long, legal battle to bring Jim Thorpe's remains back to Oklahoma comes to an end with a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Monday, the nation's highest court, rejected an appeal by Thorpe’s sons and the Sac and Fox Nation leaving in place an order that Thorpe's body remain in Pennsylvania.

The hope was that Thorpe's remains would be moved back to Oklahoma and reburied on Sac and Fox tribal ground.

Thorpe is one of Oklahoma's greatest sons, but he's buried in Pennsylvania in a town he had never even been to. Thorpe's body was whisked away in the middle of a traditional burial ceremony. Thorpe's son told News 9 in the past that is something he would never forget.

“Dad’s third wife came in with police and a hearse and took his body away in the middle of the ceremony,” Bill Thorpe said in 2010.

Thorpe's two sons and the Sac and Fox Nation have been fighting to have his remains moved to Oklahoma, but that legal fight ended when the Supreme Court rejected their appeal.

“We are disappointed of the fact this is his family, this is his nation,” Sac and Fox Chief Kay Rhoads said.

The tribe and family sued under Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act meant to protect the remains of Native American ancestors.

“The decision that the Supreme Court not only impacts the Sac and Fox nations but other Indian nations throughout the United States,” Rhoads said.

Rhoads said not only will Thorpe's remains not be returned to his people but he will never get a traditional burial and that is a violation of their religion.

“It’s a constitutional right, religious freedom, and it doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to Indian eulogy,” Rhoads said.

An attorney for Thorpe's sons said they realized the odds were against a Supreme Court review but they wanted to make every effort.

A Pennsylvania district court ruled the Grave Protection Act didn't apply to Thorpe's case because Thorpe's remains are located in their final resting place and have not been disturbed.