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Though World War I forced the cancellation of the 1916 Games, Duke Kahanamoku continued to accept invitations to swimming exhibitions all over the country, competing in Chicago, Pittsburgh, New York, Detroit, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, and St. Louis in the span of one month that year, and bringing his 100-pound, 16-foot longboard with him whenever his travels took him near the ocean. Wind sliding, as surfing was once known among the Hawaiian royalty who practiced it, suddenly appeared on shores throughout the world.
During his last Olympic appearance, in 1924 in Paris, he was joined by his younger brother Samuel, who won the bronze medal in the 100-meter freestyle; Duke took silver. But his most impressive feat occurred in 1925, when he personally rescued eight passengers from a capsized boat off the coast of Corona del Mar using nothing but his strength and his longboard.
That such an unbelievable rescue might read like the plot of a Hollywood movie is appropriate considering that's where Duke headed next. Over the course of his 28 year film career, the telegenic athlete appeared alongside actors John Wayne, Jack Lemmon, Henry Fonda, and others in roles that emphasized -and arguably mocked - his Native Hawaiian roots. During this time he also became Hawaii's unofficial ambassador, greeting VIPs like John F. Kennedy, Joe DiMaggio, Shirley Temple, and Amelia Earhart during their visits to the islands. The popularity and respect he enjoyed in Hawaii eventually led him to the Honululu Police Department, where he spent 26 years as the city's sheriff.
He died in 1968 at the age of 77. A ceremony was held on Waikiki Beach and his ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean while a local reverend offered these departing words: "God gave him to us as a gift from the sea, and now we give him back from whence he came."
Andrew Sockalexis - Penobscot, with marathon trophies in 1912.
Andrew Sockalexis, like Lewis Tewanima, took up running as an homage to his tribe's ancestral customs. Born in 1892 on the Penobscot Indian Island Reservation in Maine, Sockalexis grew up hearing stories about the tribe's legendary "pure men," an elevated status attained only by the community's most agile youth. Before the tribe lost its hunting grounds to European settlers, these men acted as the Penobscot's designated hunters, literally running down prey and abstaining from liquor, tobacco, and women to stay in top physical condition. The Sockalexis clan had produced a number of pure men in the past, and athleticism still ran in the family, so to speak. Andrew's father had earned a reputation as an outstanding runner in the tribe's traditional five-hour foot races. His cousin, Louis Sockalexis, would become the first American Indian baseball player to join the major leagues when the Cleveland Spiders drafted him in 1897.
Andrew Sockalexis was 10 years old when his father built a track near their home and encouraged his only son to use it. Just eleven years later, Andrew made national headlines by finishing 17th at the Boston Marathon in his first official race. The performance earned him a spot on the US team for the 1912 Olympics, but 90-degree heat on the day of the race took its toll. Though he was considered a favorite among the marathon's 12 American runners, Sockalexis placed 4th. He later explained that his strategy of holding back to conserve energy had backfired. He had waited too long to gain on the marathon's frontrunners and couldn't catch up in time.
In the end, Sockalexis' promising career would be cut short. In 1919, seven years after his Olympics debut, he succumbed to tuberculosis. He was just 27 years old. On the 90th anniversary of his death, the Maine State Legislature officially recognized him among the ranks of the state's greatest runners of all time, declaring that he "brought much pride to the Penobscot Nation and to all the people of Maine."
Molly Stephey is a Public Affairs Producer for the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian
photo credit Library of Congress, Marquette University Libraries
posted July 28, 2012 9:30 am edt
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