Runners embark on 250-mile journeyAug 12, 2015 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer
The athletes plan to cover the route from Riverton to Crow Agency, Mont., in two and a half days by operating in a relay format.
A group called the Eagle Staff Runners Association is running from Riverton to Crow Agency, Mont., with the goal of helping both communities heal after recent tragedies.
"They were asked to do a run from where the incident happened in Riverton with the shooting and then run to the Crow (Indian) Reservation where they also had a shooting of two individuals," group member Clarence Thomas said. "It basically is to make people aware that the violence needs to stop."
On July 18, a shooting at the Center of Hope detoxification center killed one man, Stallone Trosper, and sent another, James "Sonny" Goggles, to the hospital. A married couple from Pryor, Mont., were shot dead and their daughter was wounded July 29 on the Crow Indian Reservation when they stopped along a highway to help a man who claimed to be having car trouble.
The runners plan to cover the roughly 250-mile route in two and a half days by operating in a relay format, Thomas said. One person runs for a mile or two while support vehicles carry the runners who will follow. When one person is done, another gets out.
The group hosts about six runs a year and was planning a trip to Idaho in late August, Thomas said. The families of the victims asked the Eagle Staff Runners to run instead from Riverton to the Crow Indian Reservation, so the group changed its plans.
Roughly 30 runners gathered at 8 a.m. Wednesday at the Center of Hope to start the run, most dressed in bright athletic gear and wearing Nike sneakers.
They gathered in a circle around Nelson White, of Fort Washakie.
"I hope you have a good run and pray for the families that lost a loved one," he said.
White then kneeled down and prayed in a soft voice before setting incense on fire in a small pan. The runners approached, knelt and brushed themselves with the smoke.
The ritual, called cedaring or smudging, helps protect the runners and ensures White's prayer will guide them, Eagle Staff Runners president Eric Bennett said.
For the participants, the run is a spiritual experience.
Wesley Stops Jr., a Crow tribal member, told the runners his tribe was praying for the local community, and running can be a spiritual offering that helps another person.
"You're suffering for that person, you give an offering, you say, 'I'm doing this for you, I'm taking this on,'" Stops said.
Praying while they run can help sustain them and makes the miles shorter, Bennett told the group. He himself had a hard time knowing what to pray when he was young, but he started by praying just one or two words at a time and adding onto it slowly, Bennett said. "Eventually your prayers are going to go on and on," he said.
Run coordinator Naomi Harris, of Fort Washakie, asked the runners to pray for her family and for all local families with health problems.
"This is how I know to help people," she said. "I've seen it work."
Runners will be praying for those affected by the shootings as well as for their own families, Harris said.
"We all have a reason. It feels good to just get out on the road and start praying," she said.
Thomas spoke to the group saying running can help the runner understand humility and realize that all humans are the same.
"The reason we look different is the Creator wanted us to learn to live together," he said. "It is a test, and we are failing that test. We need to get back on track."
By taking turns, the group is able to run from sun up to sun down, and they will camp in teepees and cook their meals along the way.
They always carry an eagle staff, Clarence said.
"It is a sacred staff each tribe has, and it usually is carried in front of the tribe," Thomas said.
The Eastern Shoshone, Northern Arapaho and Crow tribes are supporting the group making the run, he said. Several Crow tribal members traveled to Riverton to join local runners for the trip.
Deja Jones, of Fort Washakie, is running and helping with the camp crew. She said she is running to honor the families of the victims of the two shootings and to pray for her community.
"It's nice to be out doing something positive. It brings us all together doing something good," Jones said.
She was a little worried about the safety of running on the side of highways, she said.
For that reason, the group had neon-green T-shirts printed with an eagle and the words "Stop the violence."
After the group discussed logistics, the members stretched and then set off as a group to run the first leg together. They expect to reach Meeteetse on Wednesday and the Crow Indian Reservation on Friday.