HDM exhibit looks at running as source of Indigenous empowerment

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At the 2019 Boston Marathon, Jordan Marie Brings Three White Horses Daniel (Kul Wicasa Oyate) ran each mile in honor of a different missing or murdered Indigenous woman, girl, Two Spirit or relative.

She can tell you all 26 stories.

With a red handprint painted over her mouth and the letters MMIW (missing and murdered Indigenous women) on her legs, Daniel completed the race at her personal best and also brought awareness to an ongoing crisis.

Daniel’s story will share the spotlight alongside other Indigenous runners who consider running a personal, political, spiritual and cultural practice in a new original exhibit at the High Desert Museum, Carrying Messages: Native Runners, Ancestral Homelands and Awakening.

The exhibit opens Saturday, November 20.

Through individual stories, the exhibition highlights the historical significance of running in Native cultures in the Western United States and the ways that some Native people today are drawing on running as a means of empowerment, sovereignty and cultural revitalization.

Running is a staple of Indigenous culture and traditions, and the exhibit features stories of contemporary runners following in the paths of their Elders.

“The stories of Native runners finding empowerment through their discipline is inspiring,” said Museum Executive Director Dana Whitelaw, Ph.D. “Their contemporary stories remind us that Indigenous communities are thriving and all of our communities benefit when we include these stories.”

The Native runners featured in Carrying Messages draw on the sport as a source of opportunity and healing, as well as a means of challenging stereotypes and asserting one’s own power and identity.

The exhibit shares the stories alongside large-scale photographs of each runner in the landscape.

Carrying Messages also features stories of runners wanting to create awareness of the surrounding lands.

Lydia Jennings, Ph.D., (Wixárika and Yoeme) discusses recognizing the value of Indigenous knowledge about the land, including Indigenous place names and land management practices.

Indigenous names, for example, often include information about the ecology and cultural significance of a place.

Carrying Messages: Native Runners, Ancestral Homelands and Awakening (highdesertmuseum.org/carrying-messages) will be on display through Sunday, April 3, 2022.

The exhibit is possible with support from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation and The Source Weekly.

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