Joseph Benjamin Keeper (1886 -1971), a member of the Norway House Cree Nation, Manitoba, Canadian long distance runner, and a member of the 1912 Canadian Olympic team tois being profiled in a Smithsonian exhibition:
Best in the World: Native Athletes in the Olympics Exhibition at the National Museum of the Native American, Smithsonian, Washington DC runs May 25, 2012–September 03, 2012
This exhibition features Native athletes who have provided some of the most dramatic moments in Olympic history. Special attention is given to the 1912 Games in Stockholm, whose centenary we celebrate in 2012.
Keeper, a member of the Norway House Cree First Nation, was born at Walker Lake, Manitoba. He was sent to Brandon for schooling at the Brandon Indian Residential School, and it was while there, at high school, that he showed an enthusiasm for long distance running.
In 1910, Keeper moved to Winnipeg, where he joined the North End Amateur Athletic Club. The following year he set a Canadian record for the ten mile run.
In 1912, he was selected to the Canadian Olympic team, and participated at the 1912 Summer Olympics at Stockholm, Sweden. He raced in the 5000 metre run and in the 10,000 metre run, where he finished fourth, the best result ever for a Canadian runner in that event.
In 1916, Keeper joined the Army, and served for two years in France. He received a Military Medal for his actions during the war. In 1917, Keeper joined with Tom Longboat to win an inter-Allied cross country championship near Vimy Ridge. Longboat, Keeper, and other First Nation long-distance runners A. Jamieson and John Nackaway served as dispatch carriers for the 107th Pioneer Battalion.
Following the war, he returned to Winnipeg, where he worked as a carpenter, before moving back to the northern part of the province, where he worked for the Hudson's Bay Company until he retired in 1951. He and his wife Christina McLeod had four sons and three daughters. His granddaughter is actress and politician Tina Keeper.
Keeper was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame in 1984.
For further information, please contact:
Joy Keeper: 204-791-6824
Rick Brownlee, Sport Heritage Manager, Sport Manitoba