Completing the five-day prayer relay run known as the Unity Run, runners finally entered the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community on Friday, March 21. The Unity Run began at Black Mountain in San Xavier in southern Arizona on Sunday, March 16, and runners ended their journey at Red Mountain the following Friday.
The Unity runners represent the four sister tribes: the Ak-Chin Indian Community, the Gila River Indian Community, the Tohono O’odham Nation and the SRPMIC.
Other runners, traditional singers and dancers, storytellers, elders and tribal leaders showed their support as runners entered the Community at McDowell and Longmore roads on the sunny Friday afternoon. And with 2014 Spring Break event taking place at the same time in the same area, staff encouraged the youth to run along part of the way and/or cheer on the runners.
Staff from many departments and Community members also showed support by standing along the sides of the road to acknowledge the runners as they ran past the Two Waters complex.
“It was good to participate [in the Unity Run]. I was glad to have been able to help other people,” said runner Gabriel White. At the end, White said his feet hurt from running.
Salt River High School wrestlers Jose Rios-Meraz Jr., Angelique Schurz and Delbert Ray III supported their teammate Thomas Garcia and cheered for him as he ran into the Community.
“I’m really impressed with our young ones, even the real small ones, who ran with the runners,” said SRPMIC Council Member Deanna Scabby. “It is so important to have our children know who we are, because we live in a world made up of all kinds of people, things, movies and music. We know who we are when we come home. And I think that is what is important. Each of the runners had [run] from village to village, and they eventually get to their home. It’s a true reward to say that they were able to do it.”
Scabby recalls when her sons, who are now adults, participated in the Unity Run when they were teenagers and the event was new. Back then, only 15 runners came through the Community. Now, the number has grown to almost 200 runners.
One of the organizers of the Unity Run, Serena Padilla, took time to thank each of the runners and volunteers, along with other organizers and leaders of the Community. “I want to thank everyone for [giving] their support to the run,” said Padilla.
The runners continued their run to Red Mountain after a brief break from entering the Community, where they could celebrate at the river and camp out.
Historically, traditional Indian runners played a significant role among the O’odham and were messengers of the tribe. Today’s tribal runners are demonstrating the need for Indian nations to unite, preserve and strengthen their culture and traditions, and offer prayers. The annual Unity Run helps instill the tradition of running and respect into the younger generations through the teaching of our Himdag (way of life).