In honor of Indigenous Peoples Day, Monday, October 10, the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation is hosting its Ojibwe Neyio Spiritual Run, a biking, canoeing and running event that the tribal community and general public are invited to attend. participate in health awareness, cancer awareness, suicide prevention and cultural awareness.
The spiritual race will start at 8 a.m. at Crier Hill near the agency, said co-organizer Wilfred “Huck” Sunchild, with the course stretching from the starting point to the East Fork, essentially following the perimeter of the reserve. .
It’s a 55-mile course in total, Sunchild said, but participants will be able to take smaller sections that suit them. The first 100 attendees to register for the event will receive a t-shirt, Sunchild said.
Rocky Boy has many organizations, programs, and individuals that help young people on the reservation with mental health, physical health, education, culture, and more, but they don’t always work effectively in coordination with each other. others, he added. Several of them, however, have come together to help with the event, which is being held just over two years after COVID-19 put an end to most normally organized gatherings and celebrations.
Like other tribes, he said, the Chippewa Cree thrive on their unity and these opportunities to come together to participate in cultural activities, so the past two years have hit the reservation community hard. , especially young people who show signs of mental health problems, including increased suicide numbers.
Another tragedy of the pandemic, Sunchild said, is the increased death toll among tribal elders due to illness. These losses are particularly harsh in Indigenous communities, he added, because elders are not only elderly family members and friends, they are also the keepers of traditions, history and language. , and to know everything that they did not have time to pass on to others. generation is lost with their death.
“My generation, I think, really dropped the ball,” he said, of the language in particular.
When he was a child, he said, many elders, like his grandfather, Cree chief Little Bear, still spoke Chippewa or Cree despite often brutal attempts to assimilate them into white European culture. These elders spoke fluently to the younger generations and many of them learned to understand the language, but not necessarily enough to become fluent speakers.
Now, he said, most fluent speakers of both languages are dead, leaving him and others to enter the list of elders.
Sunchild is part of the Living Language Grant Program, which he said strives to provide language immersion education for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. To help keep their native languages alive and used as a touchstone to help the tribe heal from long-term issues that largely stem from generational trauma.
“If we lose our language,” he said, “then we will really be assimilated.”
For more information on the Ojibwe Neyio Spiritual Race, contact Sunchild or Mike Geboe at 406-395-5215.