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The Tradition of Endurance Running in American Indian Tribes

It was tough to find a topic that I really wanted to talk about today. There was nothing happening in American Indian news that particularly appealed to me at all. So, because of that, I thought I would write about something that hits close to home for me: running. We have talked about running in American Indian culture in generalities, but nothing very specific at all. To me, distance running athletes deserve the most respect out of any sport because of they physical and mental toll it takes on the body. Before this class, I knew nothing about American Indians and running.
Early American Indians developed a  proficiency in running because there were no horses for transportation and obviously, no cars. The proficiency in running aided not only in transportation, but also in trading back and forth. Products were able to be swapped more quickly with a dependable runner. According to one source, young Apache Indians would have to be able to occasionally run for more than 48 hours straight and adults could travel 50 to 75 miles a day on rough terrain. Eventually, this means of transportation became sport and competition.

Billy Mills

It is intriguing that the only two Americans to ever medal in a 10,000 at the Olympics are American Indians. Billy Mills, of  the Oglala Sioux Tribe won the gold medal in 1964 and Louis Tewanima of the Hopi tribe won the silver in 1912. Two members from tribes facing the suppression of our government were the only two to ever win the honor that comes with Olympic medals. That’s astounding. 2012 may be the first year where a non-Indian from the United States places, but until that happens these two remain the lone medalists.

There has been a lot of recent publicity over a new book entitled Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. It details the incredible athletic achievements of the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico. This book has gained a lot of prominence because in the eyes of the reader these talents are eye-popping. But, for the Indians of that tribe as well as the ones indigenous to the United States, it is just tradition. I still have yet to read the book, but it is definitely something that is interesting to me.

This topic is relevant to our class because it delves into the culture of past societies as well as modern. Just because we now have cars does not mean that these incredible feats of endurance do not continue. It is because of these tribes that whites are now emulating ultra-marathoning in racing. That is one thing I will never do. I’m satisfied with 26.2 miles at the maximum.

Courtesy of http://www.chrismcdougall.com/book.html and

http://www.ultralegends.com/native-american-indians-running-history/

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