"Unselfish and Without Ego:" Running 800 Miles for Bears Ears
Outside, August 2018
Everyone ran the final miles to Bears Ears National Monument together. It was a sunny, blue-sky day in March, and 45 pairs of feet shuffled down a road of soft red dirt, kicking up a dust cloud. One woman wore her jingle dress, a garment used in ceremonial dances, its rows of metal cones clinking as she moved. Some still wore running shoes, but many had switched to moccasins. No one spoke. At this point, many of them had been running relay-style for three days straight, from sunrise until the light ran out.
The group—composed of members of the Hopi, Navajo, Ute, and Ute Mountain Ute tribes; a few of the New Mexico pueblos; and a contingent from the Wintun and Maidu tribes in California—had come together to run nearly 800 miles from New Mexico, Arizona, or Colorado to Bears Ears from March 12 to 17. Four separate routes snaked like veins through patches of tribal land, atop mesas, through coniferous forests, past oil pump jacks, and alongside busy highways. The event, with its rented minivans and overflowing boxes of performance snacks, was logistically similar to a team relay run like the Ragnar race series, but to define it as such would be misguided. These weren’t racers—they were prayer runners. And this group represented a largely untapped generation of voices and activists, many of whom are young, in the current fight over public lands.