Cheri Soliday-Schubert in Entertainment.Discussion »
WASHINGTON In mid-July, more than 40 Citizen Potawatomi Nation members joined their Tribe's District Representative Eva Marie Carney at the National Museum of the American Indian to learn more about two American Indian Olympic athletes. The exhibit looks at Native athletes who have provided some of the most dramatic moments in Olympic history.
Gold Medalist Billy Mills, Oglala Lakota, at the National Museum
of the American Indian
Special attention is paid to the 1912 Games in Stockholm, Sweden. That's the Olympics that made a legend of Citizen Potawatomi/Sac & Fox athlete Jim Thorpe. Billy Mills, Oglala Lakota, also shares the spotlight.
Thorpe's legend, already growing because of his gridiron exploits at Carlisle Indian School, was cemented when he won both the Pentathlon and the Decathlon in 1912. Mills attended the exhibit on Saturday, July 14, along with the Citizen Potawatomi Nation members.
You'll remember that Mills staged an amazing come from behind win to take home the 10,000 meter gold medal from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. He re-lived that race for his audience, and a painting of the triumphal moment was unveiled.
The painting was commissioned by the World Olympics Museum in Switzerland and was painted by the subject's wife, Pat Mills, Master's of Fine Arts. Pat Mills began the program with a brief historical look at how she and Billy became the people they are today.
“Being asked to do a painting of Billy Mills for the World Olympic Museum for the permanent collection, I began actually reflecting on our journey as well,”
When Pat was 9 years old she began to do pencil drawings, while sitting on the porch of her great-grandmother's farmhouse on the Kansas prairie. One summer evening, she picked up a pencil and began drawing.
“It was a child's drawing and nothing more,”
she told the audience.
But at the same time, she knew that was what she was meant to do. That same summer, at the Pine Ridge Reservation, a 12 year old Oglala Lakota Sioux was mourning the loss of his father. Billy Mills had been very close to his father who had always encouraged him to chase his dreams. Through this, another dream was born. Billy wanted to become the best.
Pat Mills showed a film of the final moments of her husband winning the Tokyo gold. At the very last moment, the runner least expected to win surged past both Ron Clarke, an Australian, and Mohammed Gammoudi, a Tunisian, winning in the American record time of 28:24.4. That was nearly 50 seconds faster than Mills had ever covered that distance. No American has come close to winning the Olympic 10,000 meter since.
The Mills couple said that, when they met with the World Olympic Museum, they quickly realized Native American values and virtues paralleled with those of the Olympics. Thus, the idea for the painting was born.
The painting encompasses light, color, passion, and the spirit of winning, as well as Native imagery and influences from the hearts of the Gold Medal winner and his talented wife. It was unveiled and at the same time projected onto a large screen at NMAI. Billy Mills took the stage to discuss his famous story and issues surrounding how Global Unity of 156 countries has become Unity Through Diversity.
Billy Mills told the Citizen Potawatomi Nation members and others in the audience that it was his father's words, relayed in a call from his sister, -We love you Billy," and the support of his loving wife that gave him the power to make his dream happen on that glorious 1964 day in Japan. He said that other words from his father were under his skin and in his heart that day: "Believe, Believe, Believe."
Billy Mills was inducted into the United States National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1976. In 1984, he was inducted into the US Olympic Hall of Fame.
“Too many young people are taking their own lives,”
he told his audience.
He teaches the values he learned from his father, look deeper into yourself, bravery, fortitude, generosity. He remembers his father telling him to journey to his soul, find humility, and become centered. Be unique.
“I realized I needed a dream to heal a broken soul,”
Mills also serves as the spokesperson for Running Strong for American Indian Youth, an organization that helps support projects that benefit the American Indian people, in particular young American Indians. He produced a book, "Lessons of a Lakota," does speaking engagements and sponsors events all meant to encourage American Indian youngsters.
Cheri Soliday-Schubert, Comanche/Cherokee, resides in Wilmington, Delaware and is a freelance journalist and photographer. She has extensive work experience with several newspapers, including the "Sac & Fox Nation News," where she served as editor.
posted July 25, 2012 8:50 am edt