Girls on the Run of Northern Arizona recently completed their IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access) Strategic Plan. Part of this plan includes ensuring access, inclusion, and belongingness for our Native American participants. GOTRNA is committed to supporting the Indigenous youth they serve and communities they come from by growing efforts to strengthen culturally responsive education, representation and programming surrounding Indigenous Peoples.
GOTRNA will share updates and progress on our IDEA strategic plan and how we are supporting Indigenous youth and their communities. Below is our first update, which shares how we celebrated Native American Heritage Month at the Girls on the Run 5k. Thank you to Dr. Alisse Ali-Jospeh for writing this powerful reflection.
Indigenous Representation at the Girls on the Run 5k.
The GOTR 5K occurs in November, which is Native American Heritage Month, a time to both honor and empower Indigenous youth and the communities they come from.
On November 5, 2022 hundreds of Girls on the Run participants, running buddies and volunteers gathered at the beautiful Buffalo Park in Flagstaff, Arizona. As these girls ran and celebrated months of training, hard work and a commitment to teamwork and building friendships, they also gained strength through the recognition of Indigenous Peoples and the land. For many Indigenous communities, running and sport are forms of empowerment. Running represents a celebration of life, provides strength through prayer, serves as a teacher and offers healing medicine. Therefore, running is more than just movement, it is a spiritual representation for many Indigenous communities. Since Flagstaff sits at the base of the San Francisco Peaks, on homelands sacred to many Indigenous communities throughout the region, it is important to recognize and acknowledge this land we run on. Additionally, it is not only important to learn the history of the Indigenous Peoples that have cared for the land for centuries, but also empower contemporary youth in their pursuit of health and education. This year, GOTRNA strengthened its commitment to ensuring Indigenous representation, programming and inclusivity during the 5K and beyond.
Dr. Darold Joseph. Photo credit: Sean Openshaw
Prior to the start of the 5K, Dr. Darold Joseph, a Hopi man from the village of Moenkopi provided a blessing and land acknowledgment. His message, “We are still here” embodied the recognition that Indigenous Peoples are still here, and continue to carry the responsibility to care for the land through stewardship, language and ceremony. As runners began to gather at the starting line, Dr. Joseph provided words of encouragement to run in solidarity for the strength of our future generations. In order to support the success and wellbeing of the Indigenous youth that GOTR serves, this years 5K also included a Prayer Stick Runner, youth Corn Runner and the Yoyhoyam-Little Rain Cloud dancers.
Yoyhoyam-Little Rain Cloud dancers
All of this was made possible through the partnership with Native Americans for Community Action (NACA), a holistic healthcare resource that provides care and preventative healthcare strategies, while empowering and advocating for Indigenous Peoples. NACA was instrumental in organizing and identifying a Prayer Stick runner and a youth Corn Runner. These runners held a Prayer Stick and ceremonial corn, and ran for the hopes and dreams of all the participants. They carried strength and hope for the girls and their families, and at the same time honored the land they ran on. As all runners rounded the corner to the finish line, they heard the song and prayers of the Yoyhoyam-Little Rain Cloud dancers, a Hopi youth dance group. At the finish line, NACA also provided a space for participants and family members to “smudge”, which is an Indigenous blessing by cleansing oneself through sage. Through this work, GOTRNA is committed to building and maintaining responsible, respectful and mutually beneficial relationships with Indigenous Peoples, and recognizes there is additional need to create capacity and awareness.
Prayer Stick Runner Elyse Monroe
Homma Joseph, the honorary Corn Runner, with support from her mom, Dr. Alisse Ali-Joseph