On April 22, the world celebrated Earth Day and tribes all across our country ran the Nation to Nation Indigenous Relay through their respective lands to encourage environmental awareness.
“We’re running with other indigenous nations that are in our country,” said Ho-Chunk tribal member Paul Roberts. “And I think the idea of it is absolutely beautiful.”
The event was promoted by a prominent Native American activist and motivational speaker, Waylon Pahona Jr., who went live on social media in March to announce the challenge.
“We are calling all our native runners to relay across their homelands,” said Pahona. “The purpose of this run is to connect ourselves to the lands where we come from, to pray for our water. Since the beginning of time, our ancestors have carried vital messages from tribe to tribe through endurance running. Before the railroads and before the automobiles, we used our natural energy to get us where we needed to go. The nonrenewable natural resources of our planet are under attack. And as indigenous nations, we have the strength and the ability to show the world a better way.”
Pahona called upon his fellow Native Americans to stand up for the rights of nature by joining him and showing support. Hence, he said that the entire event was a call to
“This is a call to action for water,” said Pahona. “This is a call to action for our indigenous land. This is a call to action to get everybody moving.”
He indicated that indigenous people have a responsibility to protect their land and water when they’re in danger. So he summoned those in the Native community to step up now that they are.
“Understand that when we were called to action as indigenous people,” Pahona said, “we did it. There was no questioning what we could do, the strength we had in our hearts, the strength as indigenous people – to move, to run hundreds of miles, for hundreds of years. Back in the day, that’s how we carried our messages. We ran. We went from place to place, hundreds of miles, carrying these vital messages. And we want to bring that back.”
One tribe that took part in the relay was Wisconsin’s own Ho-Chunk Nation – which held its run at the House of Wellness fitness center in Baraboo. Approximately 25 people participated in the event.
“The run today was awesome,” said fitness specialist Paul Roberts. “It was really nice to come together like that.”
Before they took to the road, participants gathered in prayer over an open fire. Native American Church leader Stuart Lonetree led the proceeding.
“I wanted to impart a few words of encouragement,” Lonetree said. “That positive mental attitude is the most important thing.”
Lonetree talked about the sacredness of our planet, andhow we need to think about the future generations who will be affected by actions we take today. He thought it was a good thing, too, that people have started to see error of their ways.
“It’s good that there’s an awareness about Mother Earth,” Lonetree said. “She’s in peril and has been for some time.”
Roberts said that the next Nation to Nation Indigenous Relay may include an actual baton that tribes will hand off to one another, all the way across the country. He and Pahona encouraged everyone to attend.
“Let’s continue that resistance,” Pahona said. “I know you’ve been wanting to push and do something for yourself. Well this is something that you can do. We need your hearts. We need your minds. And we need your legs to help us.”