Contributed by Celina Albany
The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA), which consists of eight Aboriginal tribes, came together in early June in support of their fourth annual Spirit of Syilx Unity Run. The run is aimed at youth suicide awareness while encouraging community engagement and a healthy lifestyle and this year included US Olympic hopeful Alvina Begay, a member of the Nike N7 development program.
Commencing in Christina Lake on May 31 and wrapping up at the Revelstoke Dam on June 3, the run attracted about 350 participants who ran 381 kilometres this year.
“This year’s run was a huge success,” said Tara Montgomery, a communications manager with ONA. “It was a bit smaller than last year, but the point is getting these kids out here and using their energy for a good cause, especially those who are at risk. It’s really important to have members of all ages in our communities coming together. I think, even without us telling them, the kids realized how powerful they can be when they’re involved in something like this.”
Upon invitation, Aboriginal tribes from the Greater Vancouver area made the long journey out and made quite an impression among the hundreds of runners and supporters.
“At first a lot of the kids were doing the stand-off thing and keeping to their groups,” said Sneena Brooks, Vice-Chairman from The Confederated Tribes of The Colville Reservation, in Washington State. “By the time I left I saw them all coming out of their shells and working together. The border between the U.S. and Canada isn’t something that needs to bind their hearts and their minds and seeing them unite was proof of that,” said Brooks, referring to the nations that are part of ONA on the American side of the border.
A fellow American who joined the run for the first time this year was Navajo pro-runner Alvina Begay, from Arizona State. “I think it’s inspiring all these people came out for the same cause,” said Begay. “It’s great to have parents and leaders out here getting their kids involved. It will show the kids that being physically active and participating in cause that you believe in is very important and it’s something they should all do when they get older.”
PHOTO: The Okanagan Nation Alliance Spirit of Syilx Unity Run concludes with a circle at the Revelstoke Dam on June 3.
On June 22 Begay will be participating in time trials to join the London 2012 Olympics, which begin later this summer.
“My mother always said positive things to me about what running and getting an education would do for me and, in that way, I already foresaw what I wanted to do at a young age … I started running because my parents took me to running events, so that is how they got me hooked on it,” said Begay, who praised all the parents and grandparents who got their kids out to the four-day event.