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In Hawaii, the beach tradition was more than a demonstration of athleticism. It was an expression of identity at a time when Native Hawaiian culture was being repressed, making Kahanamoku’s silver medal all the more poignant.
While the exhibit concentrates on the 1912 team, visitors will also learn about Native American athletes who competed in other Olympic Games, including the second Native American to win a gold medal, Billy Mills (Oglala Lakota Sioux), who won the 10,000 meters in Tokyo in 1964.
Mills is still the only American ever to win the event. No American has medaled since.
Adams said that, at its core, the exhibit is directed toward the modern generation of Native American youths.
He hopes to encourage sportsmanship as “an alternative to all the problems that still exist on the reservation.”