Native Sun News Today: Native youth lead 1400-mile run to Standing Rock

Kneeling in front: Lawrence Lind III. Front Row (10 runners): Steven Poolhaca, Shane Phillips (in brown hat), Riley Ortega, Griffin Cross, Frank Pack, unidentified, Tyler Feather Earring, Chance Gomez, Burt, Joseph White Eyes. Back Row (6 runners): Dom Cross, Donroy Feather Earring Jr., Ted Feather Earring, Mongomery Brown (holding flag), Darren Cross, Donnielle Wanatee. Photo courtesy One Spirit

1,400-mile run to Standing Rock
By Liz Gauthier / One Spirit
For the Native Sun News Today

RAPID CITY –– At 5 a.m. on October 28, a group of Native American runners left Flagstaff, Arizona, to run 1,400 miles to Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. Riley Ortega, a 15-year-old Hopi, created the Perseverance for Preservation Run.

“When I found out about the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) it was important to help my people at Standing Rock,” he said, “because everyone needs water. When the DAPL ruptures, it contaminates the Missouri River and the water supply we all need to survive.”

Young Ortega said a long run to Standing Rock seemed like the best way to raise awareness and to honor the original runners who started the No DAPL movement when they ran 2,000 miles to the White House last April. Riley also wanted to honor his late uncle, Dennis Poolhaca, who was a marathon runner. Poolhaca’s son, Steven, would run the 1400 miles to North Dakota with him. Ten-year-old Logan, Riley’s little brother, would do some running too.

Montgomery Brown of Standing Rock read about Riley’s run and contacted him to lend his support. He offered to run with him. So did Joseph White Eyes, Lawrence Lind III, Lavern Jefferson and Donniell Wanatee.

Six months earlier all five of them – along with other youths from Standing Rock - had been in the 2,000 mile-run to the White House. They had run all day for weeks. Back then they started each day with prayer and ended each day with prayer. They still do.

“The power of prayer is phenomenal,” Brown said.

They ran the 2,000 miles to carry a petition that they wanted to deliver in person to President Obama and tell him why the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) must be stopped. Water is sacred. DAPL would contaminate the Missouri River – the longest river in North America - and it would desecrate sacred burial grounds by the Standing Rock Reservation. The Missouri River provides water not just for Standing Rock but for other tribes and for 18 million people downstream. Authorities say DAPL will leak or break as hundreds of pipelines already have, and that it will contaminate the Missouri.

But the runners did not get to deliver their petition or meet with the President. They returned to North Dakota, still determined to stop the pipeline. So they helped create a prayer-based campground, the Sacred Stone Camp, close to its route. As water protectors they would pray and commit acts of non-violent resistance.

“Indigenous people were the first caretakers of the earth and look what’s happened to it since!" Montgomery Brown said. "People are sick of being oppressed. We have said ‘Enough!’ And look at all the movements today – the environmentalist movements, Black Lives Matter, the other movements. And who’s leading all of these movements? It’s the young people. We’re the Seventh Generation. It’s time we hold our heads up. The prophecy is coming true.”

For more information contact: Jeri Baker, Executive Director One Spirit

Read the rest of the story on the Native Sun News Today website: 1,400-mile run to Standing Rock

(Contact Liz Gauthier at

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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