27 years, participants in the Sacred Hoop 500-mile Run have completed
a loop around the Black Hills to encourage Native American youth
to take pride in their culture. The run is a deeply ingrained tradition
in the Lays Bad family, which has had a strong presence in the event
from the beginning.
Lays Bad was instrumental in starting the run in 1983. An elder
in the tribe, he and others wanted to do something to combat cultural
and identity issues the youth of the community were facing. The
idea of the Sacred Hoop Run seemed a good fit because of an inter-generational
story in the Native American culture. The story tells of a race
around the sacred Black Hills by the Animal Nation, said Gary Lays
Bad, Ramseys son. Because the animals, including the buffalo,
can no longer roam freely and take part in the race, the Native
American participants run to honor them.
Sacred Hoop Run covers 500 miles over six days, with participants
running and riding in vehicles as they travel from Bear Butte, S.D.,
to Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana before returning to Bear Butte.
The runners were in Whiteclay and Chadron and at Fort Robinson early
last week and were scheduled to finish the run at Bear Butte June
the decades have passed, the Lays Bad family and other organizers
have tackled additional issues.
add todays issues drugs, alcohol, gang violence and
abuse, Gary said. We believe that goes to identity.
youth have a better understanding of their culture and of themselves
and know that things like alcohol and drugs will destroy them, theyre
more apt to avoid using them, he said. For participants who had
never visited Whiteclay, the trip through town on the Sacred Hoop
Run was a shock, as they saw the damage alcohol can do. The issue
with Whiteclay, which sells millions of cans of beer each year,
much of it to the reservation, is why Duane Martin, Sr. has been
invited to be part of the run the last two years. Martin is a leader
in the Strong Heart Civil Rights Movement and spoke in Whiteclay
about alcohol sales and treaty rights, another focus of the run.
Martin is planning a blockade at Whiteclay July 1.
Lays Bad, Garys brother, emphasized that the run is not a
protest. Rather its a way to let everyone know the Native
Americans are still here and are dealing with various issues. Its
a way to raise cultural awareness on and off the reservation, he
said. Randy hopes in the future the Sacred Hoop Run will produce
youth delegates who can travel to Washington, D.C., to lobby for
the Native Americans treaty rights.
and Randys mother, Clara, has taken part in the Sacred Hoop
Run each year since her husband started it. Though shes slowed
down a bit and doesnt do as much running, she still believes
its important to take part, especially since she now has three
generations participating. She and her grandchildren often walk
together to prepare for the event, and several of them took part
a big inspiration to the youth when they see her out there,
Gary said proudly.
120 people signed up for this years run, Gary said. Each of
three groups has a team and run relay-style over the route.
try to make every mile count.
camp at the Prairie Winds Casino, Fort Robinson, Beaver Creek and
Devils Tower. Randy said they try to keep the campsites as primitive
as possible to remove the youth from the influences of television
and video games. Instead, they tell stories around the campfire,
play traditional Native American hand games and sing songs.
try to teach the language, culture and history so they dont
lose it, Randy said.