Mike Koehler's response to the Complaint
Contents of an email to Al Zagofsky,
From: Mike Koehler - spokesperson for the family of Jim Thorpe's first wife
First of all, thanks for keeping me in the loop.
Yes, I have several reactions. First and foremost, much of the complaint seems premised on the notion that Jack Thorpe is the only living lineal descendant of Jim Thorpe. That is patently absurd.
In that regard, you would do the community of Jim Thorpe a great service if you would distribute press releases to urban newspapers such as the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune, et. al. clarifying that the "Thorpe family" is composed of two halves: the children from his second marriage, of which Jack is one, and the children from his first marriage, of which I, my brother, and my cousins are members.
Unfortunately, our mothers are all deceased and are unable to speak for themselves, but as I was asked by my Aunt Grace, Thorpe's youngest daughter, to represent the family, I feel that I can say with certainty that each of the daughters appreciated all that Jim Thorpe, PA did and has been doing for their father and his memory. All three also wanted his body to remain in Jim Thorpe.
Similarly, My brother, my cousins, and I want his body to remain in Jim Thorpe. They have worked long and hard to keep his name and legend alive and to honor not only his accomplishments as an athlete but his personal qualities as a man. My Aunt Grace was involved in many of the activities planned by the borough council, including performing a native American burial ceremony on the site of his burial on the outskirts of town.
As such, it is my opinion that he lies in sacred ground and that everything I know about Indian custom would shout out against removing him from his resting place. Even more to the point, the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act, the Act that Jack and his lawyers seem to be hanging their hats on stipulates two important characteristics:
One,". . .a claim may not be made after an agency or museum has validly repatriated human remains... to another tribe, organization, or individual." It seems to be that, by definition, if Grace was asked to perform the ceremonial rights for her father's interment, his remains must have been repatriated to her!
Two, the [new claimant] must present at least some evidence indicating that the Federal agency or museum did not have the "right of possession" of the item. "Right of possession" means that the object was obtained—in this case, my grandfather's body —with the voluntary consent of an individual or group that had the right to sell or transfer the object. His third wife, Patricia Askew Thorpe, had the right at the time of his death and she transferred the rights to Jim Thorpe, PA. I know that the community fathers still have the original contract between themselves and her.
It would seem to me that a counter suit is in order, one that seeks redress for such a specious law suit and for causing such pain and suffering to the many people in the community who identify themselves with the name of their community and are thereby disturbed by threats of disinterring his body. Needless to say, I will do what is necessary to represent the other half of the family, who want him to remain in Jim Thorpe and who have, in fact, been not only consulted but actively engaged in the planning of his associations with Jim Thorpe, PA.
Items 36 through 41 are ridiculous in their myopia. Patsy Askew Thorpe, the person who gave "right of possession" to Jim Thorpe, PA, and my mother and my aunts, Gail and Grace, were consulted with repeatedly, and probably had his remains repatriated to them, especially if one of them, Aunt Grace, was asked to perform the Native American burial ceremony in Jim Thorpe, PA.
I am available to you and to anyone else in the community who might need my assistance with this issue. But again, Al, you would do the cause a great service if you got the word out to urban media that it's not "the family" that wants him returned to Oklahoma but only half the family. The other half wants him to remain right where he is. Keep me in the loop.