JANUARY 17, 1886

CREE 1912 OLYMPIC RUNNER JOSEPH BENJAMIN “JOE” KEEPER BORN

Of the Norway House Cree First Nation, Joe was born at Walker Lake, Manitoba.  At Brandon Indian Residential School & in high school, Keeper starred in distance running.  In 1911, Joe set the Canadian record for the 10-mile run.  In the 1912 Olympics, he raced in the 5,000 & 10,000-metre races in Stockholm.  His 4th place finish in the 10,000 remains the best result for a Canadian in that event.  Keeper joined the army in 1916, serving 2 years in France and receiving a Military Medal.  In 1917 Keeper, along with Onondaga Tom Longboat, won an inter-Allied cross-country championship.  They both served as dispatch carriers for the 107th Pioneer Battalion.  After the war, Keeper worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company in Winnipeg until retiring in 1951. He died in Winnipeg on September 29, 1971.  Keeper is a member of the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame and the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.  In 2012, his story was profiled at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of the American Indian. 

Source:  “Olympian Joe Keeper celebrated at Smithsonian,” Winnepeg Free Press, 5/28/2012.  Retrieved, 12/4/2019, https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/sports/amateur/Olympian-Joe-Keeper-celebrated-at-Smithsonian--155087395.html
Photo:  Author unknown, likely 1912.  Public Domain. Source: http://av.canadiana.ca/en/veteran/5151.

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