It's about a 15 year old Hopi boy who has convictions about
protecting other living things from the dangers of pollution. Meet
Riley Ortega, a Hopi 'Spider clan' long distance runner who has
every intention of running from Flagstaff, Arizona to Cannonball,
North Dakota near the Standing Rock Nation. His parents, Lori and
Erin Ortega who work for the Yavapai-Apache Nation fully support
their son's run to North Dakota.
"He will be missing out on the cross country state championship.
It's important to our youth to be part of something bigger than
themselves," said Erin.
There is a nation-wide demonstration taking place now as hundreds
of 'Water Protectors' from various Nations have gathered at the
pipeline site in Cannonball, North Dakota where an oil company is
laying an interstate pipeline that will carry thousands of gallons
of oil across the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and
Illinois a distance of 1200 miles.
The Lakota people are especially irked by the decision of the
City of Bismarck to change the course of the pipeline. The pipeline
was relocated south of Bismarck to protect its water supply from
contamination if the pipeline was to break. Now, the pipeline will
cross the Missouri River north of the Standing Rock Nation leaving
their precious water supply vulnerable. img_0027
Peaceful protestors believe that there is a potential for a
catastrophic event that would result in a massive oil break in the
pipeline that would poison the rivers downstream as well as destroy
wildlife and affect the livelihood of those along the Missouri and
Like other Native Americans now encamped at the Cannonball site
in North Dakota, Ortega is determined to state his cause and support
his fellow tribesmen who continue to lead a peaceful protest against
the construction of a pipeline.
Ortega who attends Bradshaw Mountain High School near Prescott,
Arizona, is a member of the Hopi Tribe in Northern Arizona and his
passion is running long distance.
" The reason why I want to do this journey is because I want
to be able to run for my people that need my help. I want to run
for the water because people can live without oil but people need
water to live," said young Ortega.
He has the full support of his parents Lori and Erin Ortega,
a police officer and a social worker who have three other children.
Erin said (Riley) Ortega "-was the idea guy" behind the North
Lori said that young Ortega's uncle, Dennis 'Danny' Poolheco,
a Hopi, Sun Forehead clan, who was a long-distance runner, passed
away two years ago due to being the victim in a drunk driving accident
Young Ortega wants to honor his uncle with the run to North
Dakota. Danny's son, Steven will be among the runners showing both
Riley and the cause support.
Young Ortega will begin his run from Flagstaff, Arizona the
morning of October 28 with an early morning-prayer ceremony. Young
Ortega is counting on the support of other runners and has received
several responses from runners from the Yavapai-Apache Nation, Zuni
Tribe, Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation and others. Most notably, the Oceti
Sakowin Youth and Allies Group will be joining Ortega. The Oceti
Sakowin Youth ran from Standing Rock to Washington DC this summer
to deliver a petition against the pipeline. Their experience and
energy will be a vital asset to Ortega's run. The team of runners
will make their journey 1400 miles to the northeastern part of the
United States and arrive in Standing Rock, North Dakota on November
Ortega and his team of runners will go through Kayenta, Arizona
on the Navajo Reservation into Crescent Junction, Utah, Meeker,
Colorado, Rawlins, Wyoming through Spearfish, South Dakota and finally
into Cannonball, North Dakota.
Along the route, the runners want to raise the awareness of
what is occurring in North Dakota and share their Native American
experience and culture. Mother Lori said they don't expect to take
breaks during the nights along the roads leading to North Dakota
and 'there will be feet on the ground 24/7.'
Presently, young Ortega is looking for financial support to
pay for two vans that will be the supply ships for the runners,
the expenses for gasoline and food. Hence, they have organized a
bingo night in the town of Clarkdale on the Yavapai-Apache Nation.
But, it will take more than a bingo night to propel the runners
all the way to North Dakota. They are hoping that they can generate
more interest with Indian tribes and all communities to support
their run. The family has fundraisers planned to help with cost
but appreciates donations. Funds in excess of what is needed for
the run will be donated for the legal expenses to fight the pipeline.
"I want to be able to make a difference to our world and my
people's land. If the Dakota Access Pipeline is successful and it
leaks, then the oil will find its way to the rivers and it will
destroy water sources. It will destroy the lives of families," said
Riley and his run coordinators can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
for donations and for runners interested in joining the run. The
run has a go fund me account as well. FOLLOW THE RUN ON FACEBOOK!!