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Remembering Tom Longboat : a story of competing narratives

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  • Political Science


Tom Longboat was one of Canada's first sports heroes and one of the most famous Canadians of the early twentieth century. He was an Aboriginal from the Six Nations reserve in Southern Ontario. Longboat was one of the best runners of his generation, winning the Boston Marathon in 1907, and winning races at various distances throughout his career. Most of what has been said about Longboat over the past century falls within two categories. There is the early view of him as a gifted but flawed man, "a wayward Indian" who was more interested in drinking and carousing than training, and who ended his days in poverty. The current view, however, is that Longboat was a strong-willed, independent, and innovative athlete who survived racial discrimination to become an inspiration to all Canadians. This thesis examines how Longboat went from being a man accused of questionable behaviour to an admired role model in just a few decades. It explores the competing narratives and the social and political contexts in which they were formed. In the end, the analysis reveals that these competing views say more about those who formed them than they do about Tom Longboat.

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