On 20 April 1936, the Narragansett runner Ellison “Tarzan” Brown collapsed as he crossed the finish line winning the fortieth annual Boston Marathon. But for the runner and the indigenous community from which he hailed, the marathon meant much more than a race and victory and fame. Success in this renowned contest portended a pathway out of obscurity for a people who had, for more than fifty years, sought to proclaim the continuance of their collective indigenous identity in the wake of a forced detribalization by the state of Rhode Island. This article illuminates what Brown’s victory meant to and did for a small and mostly forgotten indigenous community. More specifically, it is about how Brown and other Narragansett parlayed the runner’s physical accomplishments into meaningful, community-wide social, economic, and political advancements.

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