feeling was unmistakableintense pride in every native student
and adult in the audience who attended one of three separate presentation
sessions at Tuba City Highs Warrior Pavilion on Oct. 28.
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.
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 Pavilions bleachers.
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.
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.
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.
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
ones 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 todays contemporary world.
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
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.
reiterated that the pursuit of these goals throughout life is what
will eventually heal and move a person toward lifelong happiness
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.
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
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 districts
approach to an alcohol and drug free lifestyle for its students
and community members.
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.
Suetopka Thayer is Public Relations Director of Tuba City Unified