Students run to remember
By Jodi Rave
Condensed by Native Village
a five-day journey through four states, youth runners from the
Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana completed a 400-mile
journey. They ran to honor their ancestors who
escaped from a military fort in Nebraska in January 1879.
In all, 97 runners joined the Fort Robinson Outbreak Spiritual Run. Most
were grade school and high school students who ran through Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. Many runners and supporters shared stories about
how the run changed their life.
“This was my first time, I didn’t know what to expect except what I
heard from my grandchildren on previous runs,” said Alaina Buffalo
Spirit, whose granddaughter and grandson joined the run. “It was
very emotional hearing the horrific events that happened to our
ancestors. I was moved to tears when I heard Jenny Parker tell the
story of her grandmother who ran into the night with a baby. When
she went to take the baby off her back, the baby’s head had been
Fort Robinson Run started 14 years ago as a run around the reservation. Eleven
years ago, it expanded to honor Cheyenne
relatives forcibly removed from Montana to Oklahoma after Custer's
defeat at the
Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876.
While in Indian Territory, more than half the Northern Cheyenne died
from sickness and heat. In September, 1879, 300 people left Oklahoma
“In the middle of the night, the military
societies said enough is enough and they walked away,” said
Phillip Whiteman, an event organizer.
made it home, Dull Knife’s band was
captured and imprisoned at Fort Robinson. The Army starved them for
refusing to return to Oklahoma. On Jan. 9, 1879, the group
broke out of the fort’s log barracks, choosing death over
starvation and imprisonment.
Today, many American Indians are still recovering from historical
traumas and changes in their traditional way of
“After four generations, I feel hope,” Whiteman said. “That’s
what inspires us to fight this battle of ongoing extermination of
our people. At the same time, I see the faces of the young people
who have so much pride. Doing something like this takes a lot of
hard work. You have to have a lot of passion to overcome negativity.
That’s what those original warriors had to face. They faced
overwhelming odds that didn’t discourage them from breaking out.”
The five-day journey is about more than running. All along the way,
runners participate in prayers and ceremonies. Leaders are invited to talk with
young people about how to be better human beings. Speaker Gerard
Baker from Mount Rushmore
National Park was one.
“He inspired us to look in the mirror and say, ‘I am a warrior,’”
said BreeAnna Little Coyote, 13. “He made me want to cry, he was so
inspiring. He told us we were all brothers and sisters.”
Little Coyote and Roshandra Little Cherries, 13, were among those
youth convinced their warrior relatives
of Fort Robinson joined them on the run.
One of Little Coyote’s friends, said, “’BreeAnna. BreeAnna, can you
hear that? Just listen.’ And I could hear old people singing way out
there while we were running. It was awesome. When we were finished
they stopped. You could hear a drum, too. It was really loud but way
After the song, the girls also heard the women’s honor cry. “There was ‘luluing,’” said Little Coyote.
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