Bemidji, Minnesota “rush hour” commuters hit a different kind of traffic Tuesday evening as runners from the Red Lake Indian Reservation jogged down the middle of Paul Bunyan Drive through the entire city. Cars and trucks moved slowly into the left lane to pass the entourage of Red Lake runners and support vehicles commanding the right lane.
A Spiritual Run in Celebration of Sobriety kicked off at Red Lake Chemical Health Programs at 11 a.m., Tuesday, August 2. The run would last four days and end at Mash-ka-wisen Treatment Center at the Fond du Lac Reservation in Sawyer, Minnesota on Friday evening, August 5. The slogan for the 200-mile “crow-hop” relay run is “Gigazoongaadizim Bimibatoog!” meaning “Live strong! Run!”
Before the runners hit the road, an opening ceremony involved smudging of staffs, runners and supporters. The same evening, they arrived at the Leech Lake Veterans Memorial Grounds near Cass Lake for a feast and camping.
On Day 2, the runners will travel to the Itasca County Fairgrounds at Grand Rapids, Day 3 to Floodwood, and Day 4 to the Fond du Lac reservation (a distance of some 200 miles), where a celebration awaits.
More than a dozen runners, including several youth, began their run down Highway 89, on a warm August day with the temperature approaching the low 80s. The runners were accompanied by a near equal number of support staff, who would use five or six vans and cars to shuttle the runners and provide water and any other service the runners might need. Each team or individual runner would run 3/10 of a mile, then be shuttled ahead of the four or five other teams, allowing time to rest while awaiting their turn to run again.
Things got interesting when the runners reached Bemidji. While drivers were forced to slow down, many still honked horns in support when they saw the Eagle Staff.