This year's Sacred Mountain Prayer Run began on June
5 with a very special appearance as students from the Puente De
Hozhó bilingual school delivered the National Anthem and
the Pledge of Allegiance in the Navajo language.
parents looking proudly on, the kindergarten through second-grade
students sang with confidence and gusto.
performance served as a reminder that although many view Native
Americans for Community Action's (NACA) Prayer Run as an important
opportunity to train for longer events later in the season, to many
others this event is a family affair.
Nez, the mother of first grader Hannah, made it evident she feels
very strongly about this raceand her daughter's school.
Nez, both are about the survival of her culture, and she sends a
passionate message to the elderly who fear the loss of their way
we do for our kids, we do for all of them," Nez said. "We
want them to know that their culture is not lost."
encourages Navajo parents to take the opportunity Puente De Hozhó
offers, saying that their children can be fluent in their native
language and culture.
taken me almost 30 or 40 years to learn. If I can do it, anyone
can," Nez said.
are many familiar faces in the crowdfaces that have become
part of the Prayer Run family. Steve Darden is still running the
race after helping bring it to existence many years earlier. Darden,
one of the founders of NACA, said he especially enjoyed the presentation
by the young students.
"They are so beautiful," he said.
has been instrumental in helping urban Native Americans overcome
many issues they face off the reservation, including cultural preservation.
runner, who works as a radiation therapist, runs in support of these
admire an organization like NACAone giving back to the culture,"
the runner said. "I appreciate NACA's cultural and health
education programs, because there is an overabundance of health
problems thrown on Native Americans."
and exposure to radiation are just an example of this.
runners participate for the pleasure of running.
woman said she participated to train for another race, while another
ran just to see if she could finish.
always wanted to run a marathon," she admitted.
others, the Prayer Run is a way to memorialize a loved one who has
Wagner has been attending the race for four years now, and this
year a bad knee left him sitting at the sidelines. But his hands
were busy as he worked on a piece of wood he"d found earlier.
is the artisan who has provided the beautifully carved hiking stick
to the fifth runner of the 10K to cross the finish line for the
last three years. He does this in honor of his daughter, Kelly.
Wagner said he has always loved the woods, it was his daughter who
got him hooked on running.
all look for inspiration in different places," Wagner said.
"Kelly is mine. Runners are a rare breedrunning is a
punishing sport. It takes a lot of strength."
he said, had that strength.
described himself as a hermit but said running does provide him
with a social outlet.
make new friends and hear new stories.
people wonder why Wagner's hand-carved sticks go to the fifth
place runner. The answer is simple. Five was Kelly's number
when she performed.
described his home as being full of sticks, collected on different
walks and runs in the forest.
are hanging everywhere," he admitted. "It's like
peanuts. I can't get enough of them."
Wagner, living in Flagstaff satisfies two of his greatest loves.
love to run and here in Flagstaff we have beautiful trails and forests,"
Cherokee ancestry, Wagner admitted that he is thrilled to live in
a community with such diverse culture.
is culture that brings Wensler Nosie back to Flagstaff for the Prayer
Run every year. Nosie, a member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe,
brings family members and friends with him each year to emphasize
the cultural importance of the San Francisco Peaksthe mountain
that gives the race it's name.
leads the fight for another sacred mountainMt. Grahamwhich
is very significant to the San Carlos Apache. Once arrested for
attempting to pray at a sacred site on Mt. Graham, Nosie was charged
with trespassing because he'd entered a place declared off-limits
without a permit because of the telescope that is situated on the
mountain. Nosie, along with other Apache and their supporters, continue
their own battle to protect their ancestral rights to a sacred mountain.
have come again to give our annual support," Nosie said. "We"ve
also spent time in the forest to offer prayers."
his own effort back home, Nosie said that there has been renewed
interest in the Mt. Graham effort.
year, our tribal council refused financial support from universities
in Arizona and Minnesota," Nosie said. "This gave these
universities a black eye to their allegations that our people are
in support of the telescope. The tribal council's action has
revitalized our efforts."
cannot spend a morning among the organizers and runners of NACA's
annual Sacred Mountain Prayer Run without realizing that this race
means many things to many different people.
the steady face of the San Francisco Peaks, runners enjoy breathtaking
scenery, high-altitude training, some very personalized awards as
well as a glimpse at the Native American culture that has made Flagstaff
staff of NACA has created a race that is equally unique.