THE HENRY BOUCHA FILM PROJECT
The Henry Boucha Film Project focuses on the development of a pilot movie to celebrate the game of hockey through one of its greatest legends: Henry Boucha – Native American Olympian. While using the life and legend of Henry Boucha as its main theme, the film will also focus on an important part of Minnesota's history: the birthplace and origins of the game of hockey in humble Warroad, Minnesota. The project will then turn to subsequent documentaries or films about the lives of 21 other Native American Olympians, from the United States. Eventually, the project intends to add stories of the lives of Canadian Native American Olympians.
Henry Boucha sees this as a project that could have life-altering implications for people of all races and socioeconomic statuses. It would bring great pride to all Native Americans and would finally provide an educational, inspirational, and motivational tool for the children who are our future and who will benefit to hear these triumphant stories.
THE NATIVE AMERICAN OLYMPIAN SERIES
Future Documentaries about Native American Olympians
Selection to the U.S. Olympic team is the very pinnacle of athletic achievements. Athletes who gain this distinction are celebrated as American heroes, and are immortalized within the archives of history. Their achievements resonate within the hearts and minds of the millions who gather to observe their greatness, and provide powerful inspiration and a vision of what is possible through utmost dedication. However effortless the achievements of these spectacular athletes may seem in the public eye, there is undeniable struggle and hardship which paves the way to Olympic glory. This is especially true for those few Native Americans who have reached this pinnacle, as their rise is often from a more difficult beginning than most. The value of the accomplishments of these Native Americans holds the potential to positively impact many generations to come. Through the production of a docu-drama series encapsulating the hardships and triumphs of twenty-one Native American Olympians, this project will illuminate a path to unthinkable possibilities for people from all walks of life.
Through this docu-drama series, we have an opportunity to present “models of hope” not only to Native American communities, but to people everywhere who find themselves overwhelmed by the pressures of an increasingly demanding world. In order to celebrate the incredible achievements and maximize the impact of these phenomenal Native American athletes, who rose to the top in the face of unimaginable obstacles, we must share their inspirational stories. Many people today feel trapped within the circumstances of their situation, and are unable to see an escape to a better life. Producing a docu-drama series chronicling the sagas of the twenty-one Native American Olympians will demonstrate that it is not only possible, but well within their grasp. With newfound inspiration, and detailed depictions of how to achieve their ambitions, current and future generations will aspire to a level of greatness once thought to only exist in storybooks. Read more about this project and the Native American Olympians below and in this MinnPost article.
ADDITIONAL NATIVE AMERICAN OLYMPIANS
FRANK C. PIERCE, SENECA
In 1904 in St. Louis, Missouri, Frank C. Pierce became the first Native American to represent the United States in the Olympic Games. He competed in the Men’s Marathon. Although he failed to finish the event, Pierce opened the door to a new world of possibilities for Native American communities, inspiring a new generation of athletes.
FRANK MT. PLEASANT, TUSCARONA
Mt. Pleasant was a multi-sport standout in the U.S., competing in basketball, track and field, and college football; he also served as the head football coach at several American colleges. He qualified for the 1908 games in London, England, where he placed sixth in both the triple jump and long jump events.
LEWIS TEWANIMA, HOPI
Tewanima competed in the 1908 Summer games in London, as well as the 1912 Summer games in Stockholm, Sweden. Most notably, at the 1912 games, he became the first Native American Olympian to earn a medal in track and field by placing second in the 10,000 meter run. In 1954, Tewanima was honored by being selected to the all-time U.S. Olympic track and field team.
DUKE KAHANAMOKU, NATIVE HAWAIIAN
Duke’s Olympic career was defined by his success in the swimming pool, but he is also well-known for increasing the popularity of the Hawaiian sport of surfing. He earned three gold medals and two silver medals in various swimming events over the course of the 1912, 1920, and 1924 Summer Olympic games. His Olympic dominance was a short chapter in a life full of meaningful accomplishments.
ANDREW SOCKALEXIS, PENOBSCOT
Competing in the 1912 Summer games, Sockalexis finished a respectable fourth place in the Men’s Marathon. From very humble beginnings, Sockalexis ran a track constructed by his father, which wound around a small island off the coast of Maine: over time, he would discover new branches to his running trails. He took great pride in representing the Penobscot people, which he made public in interviews with newspapers covering the Olympic games.
JIM THORPE, FOX AND SAC POTAWATOMI
Jim Thorpe is revered in the American consciousness, and remembered as one of the most dominant athletes of the 20thCentury. He played for, and eventually coached numerous professional football, baseball, and basketball teams. In the 1912 Summer games he pummeled his competition, easily winning gold medals in both the Pentathlon and Decathlon. Upon departing from the stand where he was bestowed with his gold medals, the King of Sweden, King Gustav V, head diplomat of the games’ host country, said to Thorpe: “you are the greatest athlete in the world.”
CLARENCE JOHN “TAFFY” ABEL, OJIBWA/CHIPPEWA
“Taffy” Abel played a pivotal role in the 1924 Winter Olympics, leading the U.S. hockey team to a silver medal finish by scoring fifteen goals throughout the tournament. He would go on to translate his Olympic success to an accomplished career in the NHL, where he was a member of two Stanley Cup championship teams.
WILSON “BUSTER” CHARLES, ONEIDA
Competing in the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California, Charles placed fourth overall in the decathlon after placing first in the 100 meters, long jump, high jump, and 110-meter hurdle individual decathlon events. Aside from track and field, Charles also played football and basketball. He has been enshrined in the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame.
ELLISON “TARZAN” BROWN, NARAGANSETT
Although Brown’s 1936 Olympic career ended with him withdrawing from the Men’s Marathon due to debilitating leg cramps, he was an accomplished runner in his own right. Brown won the Boston marathon twice, in 1936 and 1939. His 1939 Boston marathon time of 2:28:51 set the American Men’s marathon record, which he again set in 1940 with a time of 2:27:30.
JESSE BERNARD “CAB” RENICK, CHOCTAW
Renick played the guard position and served as captain for the gold medal-winning 1948 U.S. Olympic basketball team. He learned the game of basketball playing on a dirt court, eventually rising through the ranks of collegiate and Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) leagues. Following his athletic career, Renick taught and coached at the Albuquerque Indian School.
WILLIAM “BILLY” MILLS, OGALA SIOUX
Mills was born into severe poverty on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, where he was orphaned at the age of twelve. He discovered a passion for running, which he turned into an athletic scholarship at the University of Kansas. The KU track team would go on to win the 1959 and 1960 national championship with Mills playing a key role. During the 1964 Summer Olympics, Mills entered the Men’s 10,000-meter race as an unknown underdog. Stunningly, Mills eclipsed his previous best time for the event by over fifty seconds as he toppled the world record holder in an unimaginable gold medal upset.
BEN NIGHTHORSE CAMPBELL, NORTHERN CHEYENNE
Although he was born to an alcoholic father who caused him to bounce between orphanages, Campbell was determined to leave a legacy. He took up the sport of Judo, and was coached through his college career by his eventual Olympic coach. Competing in the 1964 Summer games, Campbell suffered an injury and was unable to continue competing. Ben Nighthorse Campbell was able to forge a career in politics, serving as a U.S. senator from Colorado from 1993 to 2005.
BILLY KIDD, ABENAKI
In 1964 at the Winter Olympics, Kidd earned the best finish of any U.S. alpine skier in the Olympics prior to that date by earning a silver medal in the slalom event. Following his Olympic success, Kidd enjoyed a productive career in international competitive downhill skiing.
VIRGIL HILL, LAKOTA
At the age of 20,Virgil Hill represented the U.S. in the 1984 Olympic games in the Middleweight boxing division. He won the silver medal following a close loss by decision in the final bout. Hill turned his early success into a dominant professional boxing career, holding a record of fifty-one wins to seven losses, and earning his induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, Class of 2013.
NAOMI LANG, KARUK
Naomi Lang was the first Native American woman to represent the U.S. in Olympic competition during the 2002 Winter games, where she competed in the partners’ ice dancing event, finishing in 11thplace. She and her partner, Peter Tchernyshev, won five consecutive U.S. national championships from 1999-2003.
CALLAN CHVTHLOOK-SIFSOF YUPIK/INUPIAQ ESKIMO:
Callan was raised in a rural village on Alaska’s Bering Sea coast. She began snowboarding at a young age and began competing locally. After meeting success snowboarding she entered the 2010 Winter Olympics and competed in the Women’s Bordercross and finished 21st. She continues to snowboard competitively.
TUMUA ANAE, NATIVE HAWAIIAN
Anae was a three-time all American water polo goalie at the University of Southern California, where she played from 2007-2010. Shortly after, she joined the U.S. women’s national water polo team. At the 2012 Summer Olympic games, the U.S. women’s water polo team won the gold medal. Tumua Anae became the first Native American woman to earn a medal at the Olympic games.
MARY KILLMAN, POTAWATOMI:
Killman is an accomplished synchronized swimmer, having won silver medals at the 2011 and 2015 Pan American Games. She and her partner, Mariya Koroleva, competed in the 2012 Summer games in London in duet synchronized swimming, while the remainder of the U.S. synchronized swimming team failed to qualify. Both before and after the Olympics, Killman continued her synchronized swimming dominance with numerous U.S. solo titles.
ADRIENNE LYLE, CHEROKEE
Lyle began horseback riding on a small cattle ranch in Washington state; her passion for horses led her to competitive riding. She qualified for the U.S. Olympic team in the individual dressage riding competition. She placed 37thin individual competition in the 2012 games in London.
TJ OSHIE, OJIBWA
Second cousin to Henry Boucha, TJ Oshie has enjoyed a productive career as a professional and Olympic hockey player. His reputation for success in game-deciding shootouts led to his selection to one of the few remaining spots on the 2014 U.S. Winter Olympic hockey team. Oshie carried the load for the U.S. team in a preliminary round against a skilled Russian team. He was selected to participate in a shootout multiple times, converting four of his six attempts into goals. The team would go on to place fourth in those Olympic games.
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