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Chiefs Joined American Indian Center of the Great Plains for First Event

James Winchester and Tyler Bray were in attendance


Chiefs quarterback Tyler Bray and long snapper James Winchester joined members of the American Indian Center of the Great Plains in Kansas City, Mo. Friday night for a dinner and special presentation on Jim Thorpe, possibly the most famous athlete of Native American ancestry.

The presentation was the inaugural event for the American Indian Center of the Great Plains in Kansas City.

"It's just an honor to be here and to represent the Choctaw Nation," Winchester said. "There's a lot of pride there, whether you're super involved with the culture or not, we're all definitely proud to be Native American and our heritage."

The event kicked off what was a special weekend for Chiefs, who honored American Indian Heritage Month before the team played the Pittsburgh Steelers at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday.

"What's so special tonight is that native people can come together in the community and break bread and share with one another," Gena Timberman, a liaison for the American Indian Community Working Group, said. "I think that's really significant and it prepares us I think for the events of Sunday."

In addition to the Chickasaw Nation Youth Choir performing the National Anthem Sunday, there was a be a Blessing of the Four Directions, an Honor Song and a Drum Mallet Delivery to Drum Honoree Tony Gonzalez from Bill Thorpe, son of Jim Thorpe.

"It's great and it shows that we're starting to reach the old and the new," John Learned, who founded the American Indian Heritage Center of the Great Plains in Kansas City, added. "We're starting to build some bridges. I don't think a lot of people realize that there were natives that were playing in the NFL.

"Fortunately, there are two here with the Kansas City Chiefs and the Thorpe brothers are very proud and happy to be a part of our event."

Robert Wheeler, who wrote the book "Jim Thorpe, World's Greatest Athlete," presented the demonstration on Jim Thorpe. 

"I interviewed over 200 people and told the true story," Wheeler explained. "What emerged was a man who volunteered for World War II when he was 57 years old in the merchant marines, who was devoted to his children, spoke to thousands and thousands of school kids when he retired, crisscrossing the country talking a healthy lifestyle."

The Chiefs presence at the Thorpe presentation was a big step in the partnership of the Chiefs and the American Indian Center.

"I think it builds a little bit more trust in what the Chiefs stand for and what we're hoping to accomplish," Learned said. "I think the best way is 'Let's work together, let's talk and let's see if we can find solutions together and find common ground and the Chiefs have been really good about that."

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