January 18, 2019
For young Native Americans, running is a lesson in their own history
Just as their ancestors ran to communicate with others, today the young Native American athletes of Wings of America run to deliver messages of self-worth, cultural pride, and hope.
Native Americans have practiced prayer runs for generations to spiritually connect with or give gratitude to Mother Earth. And hundreds of years ago, Native Americans relied on messenger runners to communicate with other tribes.
In one of the Wings programs, elementary students in Albuquerque warm up, stretch, and, of course, run. But they are also sure to spend time in a circle, talking about Native Americans’ connection to running and how it can be a form of activism.
This past March, Dustin Martin, the executive director of Wings, helped organize an 800-mile prayer run to Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. “Everyone else in Indian country, unfortunately, for the last 30 years, has had to build a program on the premise or idea that something was deficient: ‘We’re preventing substance abuse, preventing domestic violence, we are trying to mitigate the poverty rate.... We’re fixing you somehow,’ ” says Martin. “But our association with Wings defines us as more than those things.”
In Similar News…
Chelsey Luger was working as a personal trainer when she realized that a lot of the practices that the health world was preaching were similar to things she’d grown up with, but no one was addressing that. Meanwhile, much of the Native-American population has suffered from health issues like diabetes, alcoholism, and drug use, resulting from forced displacement and poverty. These challenges turned into stereotypes, and many Native Americans fell out of touch with indigenous wellness practices.
“We wanted to reclaim our power, health, and food sovereignty, because holistic wellness has been part of our culture for thousands of years,” says Chelsey Luger, who’s of Ojibwe and Lakota descent and grew up in North Dakota, spending parts of her childhood on a reservation surrounded by the holistic learnings of Native-American culture. She founded Well for Culture, a company devoted to helping the next generation of Native Americans rediscover the wellness practices of their ancestors.
Ultimately, the goal is to make traditional wellness practices feel accessible to young people (not just young Native Americans) in today’s world. Not everyone can harvest and hunt, “but you can follow certain ideals,” Luger says, like buying organic and local and showing gratitude toward your food. And while the company is only three years old, it is already gaining traction among young people and enhancing the understanding of Native-American culture’s influence on the wellness world: Luger and Collins have run countless workshops for tribes, traveled to colleges across the country to talk about their methods, and partnered with Nike to train employees on indigenous fitness routines.
Shutdown puts strain on hundreds of Native American tribes
Fallout from the federal government shutdown is hurting Native Americans as dwindling funds hamper access to health care and other services. The pain is especially deep in tribal communities with high rates of poverty and unemployment, where one person often supports an extended family.
The effects were being felt far and wide.
In New Mexico, a lone police officer patrolled a Native American reservation larger in size than Houston on a shift that normally has three people, responding to multiple car wrecks during a snow storm, emergency calls and requests for welfare checks.
Elsewhere, federally funded road maintenance programs are operating with skeleton crews and struggling to keep roads clear on remote reservations. Tribal members said they can’t get referrals for specialty care from the Indian Health Service if their conditions aren’t life-threatening.
Native American tribes rely heavily on funding guaranteed by treaties with the U.S., acts of Congress and other agreements for public safety, social services, education and health care for their members. Because of the shutdown, tribal officials say some programs are on the brink of collapse and others are surviving with tribes filling funding gaps
How Native Hawaiians Are Decolonizing Tourism
Native Hawaiians living in the “vacation paradise” are caught between the state’s two major industries, the U.S. military and tourism. Through DeTours, they challenge both by showing tourists Hawaii from their perspective.
When most people think of Hawaii, images of hula dancers, surfers, and honeymoons might come to mind. That is, to settlers. To the roughly 156,000 Kānaka Maoli, or Native Hawaiians, who are greatly outnumbered by migrants, settlers, and their descendants, aloha means something completely different. As haole, or outsiders, we have to ask ourselves why our popular imagination of a Hawaiian paradise rarely considers the reality of its original inhabitants, and what processes took place to enable such a mass tourist presence to propagate there. In 2015 Hawaii received 8.6 million arrivals, most of them Americans from the lower 48, who spent $15 billion that year alone. None of them need look further than the state’s other major industry—the U.S. military—to begin to understand that process.
“Hawaii is captured by the twin forces of militarism and tourism,” Kyle Kajihiro, who is an activist and himself a fourth-generation migrant of Japanese ancestry, recently told me over email. Along with Native Hawaiian Terry Keko‘olani, he leads demilitarized tours, or DeTours, to historic points of U.S. intervention on the islands, drawing attention to its role in overthrowing the kingdom over a century ago, and its use of the islands as a strategic linchpin “to extend American empire across the Pacific.”
A bird for all seasons: the case for the raven as an Alaska symbol
After enduring uncountable thousands of dark Alaska winters, it’s time for the raven’s day in the sun.
A group of Fairbanks businessmen is pushing to make the jet-black songbird (scientific name Corvus corax) Alaska’s state bird, which raises the question: Why did we ever choose otherwise?
Ravens are, after all, emblematic of Alaska and the way we see ourselves: Shrewd. Seemingly unconcerned by even the bitterest cold. Fun-loving. Social. Loyal. Adaptable to all circumstances.
The best argument for the raven as a symbol of our state, however, is the recognition of its importance by Alaska’s first people. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, “the Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, Bella Bella, and Kwakiutl viewed raven as the creator of the world and the bringer of daylight, as well as an incurable trickster.” Ravens figure largely in the mythology of Alaska Native people across the state, in many instances being responsible for bringing about many of the fixtures of life, such as the sun, moon and stars.
Today’s History Lesson
Many of the city’s roads began as indigenous pathways – just one example of Native American infrastructure that helped make Chicago a successful city.
Chicago’s American Indian Center is the oldest urban indigenous center in the US and serves as “evidence of the Native experience, existence, and survival.” But there is an easier way to see the enduring indigenous influence on Chicago – simply walk a few blocks east to Clark Street.
Named for George Rogers Clark, whose brother William was one half of the Lewis and Clark expedition, Clark Street has been a key trail for thousands of years. Its irregularity is an unnoticed but integral reminder of the many tribes that once called the area home, and a fitting example of the erasure of the Native influence on the city’s development.