Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert Inducted into the North American Indigenous Athletics Hall of Fame

Feb. 7, 2024
Mathew Sakiestewa Gilbert and the book cover for Hopi Runners

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert and his book "Hopi Runners: Crossing the Terrain between Indian and American."

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert, head of the University of Arizona Department of American Indian Studies and professor in the Department of History, was recently inducted into the third class of the North American Indigenous Athletics Hall of Fame.

Founded by Dan Ninham, a member of the Oneida tribe, and his wife, Susan, a member of the Red Lake Ojibwe, the NAIAHF represents the Indigenous sports cultures of 27 North American countries. Gilbert is among the class of 80 inductees who were honored for their leadership and achievement at both the individual and team levels.

"I am honored by this recognition, and especially honored to be inducted alongside Hopi Olympic runner Louis Tewanima, and legendary Hopi cross-country coach Rick Baker," Gilbert said.

Gilbert is an enrolled member of the Hopi Tribe from the village of Upper Munqapi. His research has focused on American Indians and sports, the history of American Indian education, and the Indian boarding school experience. 

His book, Hopi Runners: Crossing the Terrain between Indian and American (University Press of Kansas), won the 2019 David J. Weber-Clements Prize of the Clements Center for Southwest Studies. In this book, Gilbert examines the ways Hopi marathon runners navigated between tribal dynamics, school loyalties, and a country that closely associated sports with U.S. nationalism. This perspective linked Hopi runners to athletes from around the world, including runners from Japan and Ireland. It also caused non-Natives to reevaluate their understanding of sport, nationhood, and the cultures of Indigenous people. Gilbert’s research has also been featured in an ESPN documentary, “Run Hopi” by Scott Harves as well as in other media outlets such as KUYI Radio Station (88.1 FM) on the Hopi Reservation.

Gilbert is a highly regarded speaker, known for his expertise in Hopi and Indigenous running. This prestigious award serves as a testament to his unique knowledge and achievements, and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences proudly acknowledges and celebrates his induction into the North American Indigenous Athletics Hall of Fame.