In 1975, Dennis Banks, the co-founder of the American Indian Movement, was convicted of assault and rioting for his part in a demonstration in Custer, S. Dak. to protest police handling of the shooting death of an Indian. While awaiting sentence, Banks jumped bail and fled to California, where Governor Jerry Brown gave him sanctuary by refusing to extradite him to South Dakota. Last year, after newly elected Gov. George Deukmejian indicated he might allow Banks's extradition, the Indian leader took off again, this time finding asylum on the Onondaga reservation, 7,300 acres of wooded, rolling hills about five miles south of Syracuse, N.Y.
Today the 52-year-old Banks, a hero to many Indian youths, who consider him a victim of white oppression, is the reservation's cross-country coach. He's currently organizing the Jim Thorpe Longest Run, a cross-continent relay commemorating Thorpe's life and the Thorpe family's success, in 1983, in regaining the gold medals he was forced to surrender after the 1912 Olympics.
The eight-week run will begin on the Onondaga reservation on May 28 and end in Los Angeles County a week before the Summer Olympics. The culmination of the run will coincide with the start of the first Jim Thorpe Games, a sort of mini-Olympics for Native Americans. About 40 Onondagas will run opening legs before giving way to Tuscaroras, Utes, Piutes, Western Shoshones, Winnebagos, Arapahoes, Sioux, Lakotas, Oneidas and members of Banks's own tribe, the Chippewas. Instead of a torch, they'll hold aloft medicine bags and belts of wampum beads.
Banks himself will run the first three miles. That's the entire length of the Onondaga reservation. If he were to run any farther, he would be subject to arrest.
HE REALLY PARKED ONE
When Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Jim Morrison suffered a jammed thumb before a March 7 spring training game against the Mets in Bradenton, Fla., the club told Jim Opie, a 22-year-old non-roster player, to hop in his car and hurry over from an auxiliary diamond to replace him. Trouble was, Opie's name hadn't been put on the list of players entitled to free parking at McKechnie Field. He had to pay $2 to get in the lot.
In the third inning Opie hit a 375-foot home run to help the Bucs win 4-3. Though Opie had 20 home runs and hit .294 for Alexandria in the Class A Carolina League last year, he had virtually no hope of getting to the majors this spring. He still is only a long shot, but that homer and some further batting heroics in the following days—he was hitting .667 after four games—earned him a longer look. It also got him a $2 refund from the Pirates for his parking fee.
RUNNING FOR SHELTER
To celebrate the passing of the April 16 income tax deadline, the Georgia Society of CPAs will stage a big to-do for runners in Atlanta the next weekend. One event will be on a 10-km course lengthened by 40 yards to create what the promoters call the 1040K road race. Another event is a one-mile fun run called the Short Form. Also scheduled is a two-mile race walk called the W-2. Proceeds from the big day will go for college scholarships for budding accountants. Entry fees are tax deductible, naturally.
THEY THOUGHT THEY COULD...AND THEY DID!
When the basketball season opened last November in Hedrick, Iowa (pop. 847), something was missing. Hedrick High School had a girls' as well as a boys' team, and because so many of the school's 23 girls preferred playing hoops to eliciting rah-rahs, there were no cheer' leaders. To fill the void, Jim Clingman, a drugstore employee, organized the Granny Squad. Ranging in age from 57 to 74 and boasting some 40 grandchildren and one great-grandchild among them, the six women (including Clingman's mother, Mary Faye) were an immediate hit. "At first we thought the kids would laugh, but they didn't," Clingman says. "In fact, they were more supportive than the adults. But even the adults liked it."