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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


November 15, 2003 - Issue 100


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Still strong & 'Running Brave'

by By Rosanda Suetopka Thayer - TC District Media
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Billy Mills speaks to the student body.The feeling was unmistakable—intense pride in every native student and adult in the audience who attended one of three separate presentation sessions at Tuba City High’s Warrior Pavilion on Oct. 28.

This American Indian pride was generated in the body and Red Ribbon Week presentations of Billy Mills, the only American to ever win the gold medal. His came in the 10 K race at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. The fact that Mills is not just American but American Indian, a Lakota tribal member who has remained alcohol and drug free his entire life, added to the awe and inspiration for the students. Tuba City School District hosted the event, but other schools were bused in for Mills’ special school presentation.

Students from as far away as Pinon School District and Shonto Preparatory in Kayenta came for the noon high school presentation. The morning session had students from Greyhills Academy High School, Tuba City Boarding School and other smaller feeder reservation schools packed to capacity in the Warrior Pavilion’s bleachers.

The presentation included actual footage from the 1964 Olympic race and a final 90-second video developed by Mills, that is a tribute to Native American and other minority contemporary heroes.

Mills, who was a relative unknown in sports in ’64 yet beat world champion runners at the Tokyo games, is a big believer in visualization or “imagery.” His life story was made into a movie in 1984 that starred Robby Benson, titled “Running Brave.”

Mills told the audience that he did not allow negative thoughts to enter his head as he worked toward the biggest race of his life and does not allow negativity into his life now as a motivational speaker.

Hearing Mills in his one-hour presentation speak about his own personal trials kept the student audience quietly respectful and, at one point, close to tears when he revealed that he had even contemplated suicide at one critical moment in his life. He told how being orphaned at age 12 and having to deal with racism at college even after winning the gold combined with his own internal competitive spirit. He said he was able to fall back on his own Native American spirituality for strength and vision. Mills hammered on the topic of leading one’s life on values of “responsibility along with accountability” to bring honor, character, beauty and dignity to life. He also spoke heavily about “giving back to your community” which is a basic Native American concept for most tribes that is practiced even in today’s contemporary world.

Mills reminded each student of this kind of Native American practice of generosity, that once a person has achieved a certain level of personal success, he or she must then give back in appreciation for being so blessed, whether it is monetary or in selfless works for the community’s benefit.

Billy Mills talks with students.He encouraged each student to move past anger, jealousy, hurt, pain and self-pity and “remember that you have been given a life and your gift back is what you will do with that life.”

Mills reiterated that the pursuit of these goals throughout life is what will eventually heal and move a person toward lifelong happiness and success.

Mills recently received the University of Kansas Distinguished Alumni Service Award, given to graduates who have contributed exemplary service to the field of education or humanity. Mills is the first American Indian recipient of this award.

Although Mills is retired from professional running, he is the national spokesperson for Running Strong for American Indians, a nationally recognized nonprofit organization with the mission of strengthening American Indian community by creating opportunities for self-sufficiency and self-esteem.

Tuba City High school Counselor, Lucy Hatathlie-Nez partnered with Michelle Archuleta of Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation to bring Mills to Tuba City to highlight the community and school district’s approach to an alcohol and drug free lifestyle for its students and community members.

Once Archuleta was able to confirm Mills’ schedule, Hatathlie-Nez worked on securing a facility and format for Mills to be able to present to, not just TC District students, but all interested students in the area as well as parents and community members in an evening presentation.

(Rosanda Suetopka Thayer is Public Relations Director of Tuba City Unified School District.)

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.

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