Native Village
Youth and Education news
Volume 2 October, 2011

Native youth group bikes 200 miles on the Trail of the Ancients

Condensed by Native Village

Jake Foreman (fifth from left) and students from the Native American Community AcademyNew Mexico: Cycles of Life is a nonprofit that helps Native American teens learn about their heritage.

"The thing that connects it all together is cycles," said Jake Foreman, Cycles of Life's creator and a member of the Absentee Shawnee tribe of Oklahoma. "That's the way everything is, from planting seeds to being on a bicycle—which is turning a wheel."

Since early June, students trained at local gyms for long days of riding.  They also learned how to build and fix their own bikes.  In late July, Jake and his sister, Lisa, led the teens from along the Trail of the Ancients.  Their 12-day journey covered 200 miles from the Zuni Pueblo to Taos Pueblo under a blazing hot sun.

The Trail of Ancients is an indigenous byway linking Southwest communities. It was also used by Spanish
conquistador Francisco Vásquez de Coronado in his search for the Cities of Gold.  Foreman says riding along the path is a step toward healing historical traumas.

"We're retracing that route on bicycle and learning from spiritual leaders at every stop," he says. 

Cycles of Life is a program with Trips for Kids, a national organization for disadvantaged and troubled youth. It uses biking, gardening, and artwork to help improve the physical and spiritual health of indigenous communities.   Bicycles are the giver of movement, Foreman says, and gardens improve physical health, while art benefits the spirit.

This year's teen cyclists are students from Albuquerque's Native American Community Academy. Foreman says they are battling generations of poverty and oppression, and need tools to pursue exercise and healthy diets.

"The solution is growing and planting our own food again," he says.  "And there's the health aspect of course.  When it comes to Native Americans, we have high rates of diabetes and diet-related diseases."

Foreman hopes that by returning to local indigenous diets and non-monetary based currencies, communities can strengthen their bonds and thrive.

"This is us not waiting to see what'll happen," he said. " It's us being proactive about it and saying, 'Yes, this is the path that we're choosing.'  We're connecting back to the land.  We're connecting back to each other."

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