| Aug 03, 2006

Feature Article - August 3, 2006

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Feature Article - August 3, 2006

Unity run whizzes by


An energetic group of young runners from First Nations in Canada and the United States passed through Lennox and Addington, Frontenac, and Lanark Counties last week along Hwy. 7, stopping for lunch at the Sharbot Lake Provincial Park on Wednesday, July 26 as they participated in the Unity Run.


Three or four runners at a time, carrying the sacred staffs of their nations, kept up a fast pace, as a convoy of slow moving vans travelled in front of and behind the runners. The runners run about 1 kilometre at a time, and the convoy covers up to 100 km. each day. On July 26th, the runners started from Woodlands Park at Elm Tree and ran as far as Innisville.

''When you carry these staffs you represent your nation, your community members and your family,'' said Raymond Smith, one of leaders of the group. Unity Rides and Runs were initiated in 1986 by Lakota elders in North and South Dakota . Every four years, the run is passed over to the youth of a different nation, and in 2004, the Unity was passed to the youth of the Six Nations in southern Ontario during an International Indigenous Elders Summit.

In 2005, runners traveled from the Six Nations Territory to the Onondoga Nation near Syracuse , New York . This year the run started at Onondoga, progressed to Oneida New York , Tyendinaga , Ontario , and was continuing on through Kahnewa:ke, Quebec , Kanehsata:ke, Quebec and Kanien:ke, New York before the run is scheduled to be completed on August 6th at Akwesasne Territory .

Stacey Green from Six Nations is an organiser of this year’s run. During lunch at the Sharbot Lake Provincial Park , she described the run as an “opportunity to work together, to have some fun, and to bring the nations together.”

Along with a large contingent from Six Nations, there were runners from diverse nations, some coming from as far away as Saskatchewan .

There were some women in their thirties and forties travelling with the runners. As they sat at picnic tables at the provincial park, the women reflected on the value of the run.

“It gives some of these kids a focus,” one of the women said, “and a sense of pride.”

“We also want to promote a healthy lifestyle,” said another. “If people want to give us food and drink along the way, we want fruit juice and water, and fresh fruit, not junk food. Diabetes runs through our communities, and the kids need to eat healthy food. I love the blueberries they sell at the side of the highway here, but they are very expensive,” she concluded.

As she talked, three young men grabbed the staffs and off they went with a single van in tow, leaving the rest of the group scrambling to pack up all of the cook stoves and coolers from lunch and catch up to the runners.

“I guess we’re off,” said Stacey Green with a shrug.

People on the Unity Run were surprised when they passed Road 38 and were greeted by members of the Sharbot Mishigama Algonquins (SMA), who had been holding a meeting at their office on hwy. 7.

“They had no idea that we were here,” said Danka Brewer of the SMA, and they were happy to meet us. You have to admire what they are doing.”

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