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Jim Thorpe fight

  • TIMES NEWS FILE PHOTO The Jim Thorpe mausoleum
    TIMES NEWS FILE PHOTO The Jim Thorpe mausoleum
Published August 25. 2010 05:00PM

The borough of Jim Thorpe won't be surrendering the body of the famed athlete for whom the municipality was named without putting up a fight.

Two documents have been filed in U.S. District Court, Scranton, in response to a lawsuit initiated by Thorpe's son, Jack Thorpe, who wants the athlete's remains to be brought back and buried in Oklahoma.

Currently, the body is in a mausoleum along Route 903 in the borough.

The defending court actions were filed by attorney William G. Schwab & Associates, who is working pro bono on behalf of the borough, and attorney James R. Nanovic of Nanovic Law Offices, solicitor for Jim Thorpe borough.

The first argument the local lawyers made for having the suit dismissed is that Jack Thorpe "has not joined all of Jim Thorpe's lineal defendants in this action nor the appropriate Native Indian tribes."

Jack Thorpe seeks not only the return of the remains of Jim Thorpe, but also compensatory and punitive, court costs, expert witness fees, and attorney fees for alleged violation of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).

Attorney Schwab argues that NAGPRA "is intended for the protection of historical Native American burial sites and repatriation of cultural items, but not modern day family burials and modern human remains."

He states that the act "was to protect Indian Culture by protecting ancestral burial grounds and cultural items found there on Tribal or Federal land and to repatriate historical cultural items taken without permission from tribes and federal land to an appropriate lineal descendant or recognized tribe if the cultural items were acquired by an institution receiving federal funding and the institution did not receive the cultural items by voluntary consent of an individual or group that had authority of alienation."

Schwab argues, "The burial site is not a museum."

He adds, "There is no official or unwritten policy of the borough of Jim Thorpe or its officials to violate the provisions of NAGPRA."

He further states, "The borough of Jim Thorpe is not a museum under the Act. It is the site of a modern day burial plot that contains the human remains of a modern person with Indian lineage."

In additional reasons for dismissing the suit, attorney Schwab argues:

• Jack Thorpe has not alleged that he is the sole heir of Jim Thorpe.

• The plaintiff has not joined in this action all descendants of Jim Thorpe.

• Plaintiff has failed to join in the action the Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma and the Potawatomi Tribe.

The lawsuit was filed by Jack Thorpe on June 24.

Defendants are the borough of Jim Thorpe, Mayor Michael Sofranko, former mayor Ronald Cunfer, and council members John McGuire, Joseph Marzen, W. Todd Mason, Jeremy Melber, Justin Yaich, Joseph Krebs, Greg Strubinger, Kyle Sheckler, and Joanne Klitsch.

The filing of the suit generated coverage from national media.

The Associated Press carried an article about the lawsuit. A feature column was done in Sports Illustrated magazine, with the writer visiting the town.

The Wall Street Journal had a front-page feature.

Home Box Office is planning a special program on the dispute over the location of the body.

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