Billy Mills visits students at his namesake middle school in Lawrence

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Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills, in Lawrence for the Kansas Relays, stopped by Billy Mills Middle School to meet with the Intertribal Club and speak at an end-of-day assembly on Thursday.  


Mills, Oglala Lakota from Pine Ridge, told the Intertribal Club students stories about Crazy Horse, his father’s death, and lessons Elders have taught him. He stressed the importance of reading and of having dreams.

One student said her dream is to carry on Native American heritage, especially that of her tribe, Northern Cheyenne. 

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times Billy Mills spoke with Intertribal Club members before the school assembly.

Mills’ wife, Patricia, told the students about a trip they took to Turkey, where a university professor guessed that Mills was Lakota and asked him about treaty rights. 

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times Patricia Mills

During the assembly, Mills shared some of his life lessons with the students and again emphasized the importance of dreams, dignity, and diversity.

He also took a photo with the school’s track team.

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times

The Lawrence school board voted unanimously in 2018 to change the school’s name from South to Billy Mills Middle School. The proposed name change was led by district families and Native American leaders, including Steve Cadue and Carole Cadue-Blackwood (both Kickapoo). Cadue-Blackwood was elected to the school board the next year.

The move proved historic as it became the first public school in the United States to be named after a Native American public figure. The change coincided with the school’s 50th anniversary and also serves as an acknowledgment of Haskell’s land gift of the campus, where students also attend Broken Arrow Elementary.

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Molly Adams (she/her), photojournalist and news operations coordinator for The Lawrence Times, can be reached at molly (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Check out more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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