Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert
Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert is Professor of History and American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona. He is an enrolled member of the Hopi Tribe from the village of Upper Munqapi. Centering his research and teaching on Native American history and the history of the American West, he examines the history of American Indian education, the Indian boarding school experience, and American Indians and sport.
Over the years, Gilbert has published extensively on Hopi long-distance running, including an article titled “Hopi Footraces and American Marathons, 1912-1930” (American Quarterly, March 2010) and “Marathoner Louis Tewanima and the Continuity of Hopi Running, 1908-1912” (Western Historical Quarterly, Autumn 2012).
He is, however, best known for his book, “Hopi Runners: Crossing the Terrain between Indian and American” (University Press of Kansas, 2018), which won the 2019 David J. Weber-Clements Prize of the Clements Center for Southwest Studies. In it, he examines the ways Hopi marathon runners navigated between tribal dynamics, school loyalties, and a country that closely associated sport with U.S. nationalism. He calls attention to Hopi philosophies of running that connected the runners to their village communities and to the internal and external forces that supported and strained these cultural ties when Hopi people competed in U.S. marathons. He argues that between 1908 and 1936, the cultural identity of Hopi runners challenged white American perceptions of modernity and placed them in a context that had national and international dimensions. This broad perspective linked Hopi runners to athletes from around the world, including runners from Japan and Ireland, and caused non-Natives to reevaluate their understanding of sport, nationhood, and the cultures of indigenous people.
His work and expertise on Hopi running have been featured in an ESPN documentary film, “Run Hopi” by Scott Harves, and various media outlets, including the KUYI Radio Station (88.1 FM) on the Hopi Reservation. A sought-after speaker on Hopi and indigenous running, he has given lectures for academic audiences, tribal organizations, primary and secondary schools, and Native American cultural centers and museums, including the Heard Museum, Amerind Museum, and Tohono O’odham Cultural Center and Museum.