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A map of the 2022 prayer race.
Courtesy SLC Air Shrouds
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Advertisement for the 2022 Salt Lake City Air Protector Race.
Courtesy of Béésh Adee’ Photography
Runners from the nonprofit, Indigenous-led SLC Air Protectors raced through Provo on Friday in their third annual Running As Medicine prayer run.
The theme for this year’s 360-mile race was “Healing Our Mother — Healing Ourselves”, which focused not only on individual spiritual healing, but also on healing and restoring the planet. and social relationships.
“Running has traditionally been an integral part of the well-being of body and mind in Indigenous communities. This drug is especially needed now after years of economic and environmental challenges and isolation caused by the pandemic,” reads a press release distributed by SLC Air Protectors. “This year’s theme, Healing Our Mother – Healing Ourselves, aims to raise awareness of the interconnected nature of individuals, community and the planet. Efforts to heal one inherently help restore others.
The race began Tuesday at the base of Bears Ears National Monument, which served as a traditional gathering place for the Hopi, Dine, Ute, Paiute and Zuni peoples. It will end Saturday at Warm Springs Park in Salt Lake City, which has cultural and historical significance to the Ute, Paiute and Shoshone nations.
Herbert Stash, a member of the Navajo Nation, is an experienced marathon runner, but what sets a prayer run apart from any typical run is its immense spiritual significance.
“We strongly believe that running is also a kind of prayer,” Stash said. “So when I do these prayer races, it’s always a different experience. For me, I always feel like there’s…a healing part.
For Stash, he not only ran for the healing of Mother Earth, but for the healing of all the mothers in his life.
“Our mother is the Earth we run on, so we pay homage and honor her too,” Stash said. “All the mothers related to us or not, we always call them our mothers or our grandmothers. And to me, that says a lot about how we show respect to our mothers.
Stash also ran to raise awareness for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s Movement, which highlights the human rights crisis of disproportionate violence suffered by Indigenous women in the United States and Canada. This cause is particularly important to Stash – he is currently helping his sister search for his missing aunt.
“She is one of those cases, along with many other cases on the Navajo reservation that have not been resolved,” he said. “So we’re just raising awareness.”
Gaby Alcala, an indigenous woman from Mexico, traveled from California to attend the prayer run. Alcala runs because she strongly believes in the importance of loving and respecting the Earth.
“We are just visitors to the Earth, the Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth,” she said. “We need to come and leave our footprints not in a trashy way, but in a way that we can support our families and teach them to respect Mother Earth”
The prayer run also focused on strengthening relationships between native communities and people living throughout Utah. Community members are invited to participate in the final leg of the journey. Those interested are encouraged to meet at Murray Park at 11 a.m. Saturday to travel with the runners to Warm Springs Park, where a final celebration will take place. More information on the final leg of the race can be found at http://slcairprotectors.org/prayer-run.
A virtual attendance option is also available. Individuals can photograph themselves running or walking and post it on social media along with their prayers, using the hashtags #SLCAirProtectors, #RunningAsMedicine and #HealingOurMotherHealingOurselves.
SLC Air Protectors was founded in 2017 following protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline in Standing Rock, North Dakota.
“The Elders made the request when breaking camp, ‘to return home and work in your area,’ reads a press release distributed by SLC Air Protectors. “Our founders chose to focus on air quality issues and our mission is to protect the natural environment and support the rights and responsibilities of Indigenous peoples as stewards of the land.”