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At L.A. Marathon, Native Group Raises Funds -- and Awareness

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When runners in the 28th Los Angeles Marathon approached mile 17, they saw something unexpected: a fancy dancer, a drum group and Idle No More-shirted Indians handing out water.

The water station was managed by the American Indian Community Council, a nonprofit that serves LA County’s large Native population. AICC’s mission is to strengthen the wellness of the region’s Native children, families and communities. Among its initiatives are developing youth leadership skills and coordinating the Indian Child Welfare Act.

AICC treasurer Willie Sandoval

Two AICC board members—Shawn Imitates-Dog, vice president, and Willie Sandoval, treasurer—entered the marathon. The organization used their participation as an opportunity to raise funds. Launching a campaign on the crowd-sourcing site, they asked friends to donate water, cups and of course money.

On race day, March 17, a couple dozen AICC volunteers arrived with loads of bottled water and cups. They weren’t sure what to expect, but found themselves on their feet the whole time, cheering the runners and getting cheered in turn.

“We had a great time,” said Pamela Peters, one of the volunteers. “We loved the response from the runners.”

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“The runners were very moved and excited to see our community out there,” added Imitates-Dog. “People made comments about the dancer and drum group being cool or awesome.”

Shawl dancer Cheyenne Phoenix (Northern Paiute, Navajo) performs just off the marathon route

It wouldn’t be LA without a celebrity sighting, and the Indians spotted actor Shia LeBouef among the runners. In addition, they had a bit of excitement on the sidelines. They had started with some 3,500 cups, but eventually ran out. They had to hurry to a nearby drug store and buy its supply.

Imitates-Dog and Sandoval had run marathons before, but neither one trained heavily for this one. The spirit must have been with them, though, because they completed the 26.2 miles without major difficulties.

As of this writing, the marathon helped AICC raise $1,125. And just as important, raise the awareness of Angelenos.

“One of AICC’s goals is to make sure our community is more visible in LA,” said Imitates-Dog, “I think being at an event like this in front of 24,000 runners, and thousands of spectators, is important.”

AICC volunteers