The Hemajkam Riders of the Gila River Indian Community again participated in the Native Warrior Run in May, an event they have been part of for the past three years. The Native Warrior Run is an annual event to honor America’s veterans and to help teach younger generations to honor and have respect for veterans from Indian Country. Native Warrior Run participants join many Native and non-Native motorcyclists from across the United States who ride together to arrive in Washington, D.C., on Memorial Day.
The Native Warrior Run was first called Sacred Trek To The Wall and was envisioned by Lenard Reeder. He was one of the first motorcyclists to ride in Rolling Thunder in 2004 from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. Reeder’s vision was to ride in honor of all veterans and to help build awareness of the sacrifices they have made. On the way to D.C., the Run makes various stops throughout Indian Country.
On May 18, riders from different parts of Arizona, including the Native Warrior Run participants from Ganado and Sells, came to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community to show support for the event. They made their way to Friendship Park, where Sharon Selestewa said a blessing over the event. Then the Salt River Young Marines displayed the color guard, followed by Ron Carlos and Ronnie Mack singing Piipaash songs for the riders.
Stephanie Solis, one of the organizers of the event, read a poem by a Native American poet, then shared a little about the Native Warrior Run and how she had invited some of the riders to her home, where her family would feed them. She also wished the riders a safe journey.
Each rider carries a staff on the journey in remembrance of their loved ones. Riders collect various items of special significance to decorate the staffs. For example, “I have three feathers on my staff: one for my son and two for others who lost their loved ones in war. I also have other mementos, such as a crucifix that was given to me. My wife and sister also ride along with me on this journey,” said Ramon Reyna of Sells, whose son was killed in Iraq in 2005. Every year since then he has participated in the Native Warrior Run.
“I participated in the Run For The Wall in 2004, and in 2005 I traveled to D.C. During the [Native Warrior] Run last year. I rode up to Gallup, New Mexico,” said Edward Kurk. “This year I started in Sells and came through the Salt River Community. I am a supporter of this ride, and I learn a lot of interesting information from riding with everyone from different communities.” Some of the riders were going on to Flagstaff that evening.
This year’s Native Warrior Run stopped in the Tohono O’odham Nation, Gila River Indian Community, SRPMIC, and the Osage, Apache, Diné and Zuni communities.