She painted a red hand on her face, and she painted big red letters on her legs spelling out MMIW in honor of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. And during her race last week, Jordan Marie Brings Three White Horses Daniel prayed at each of the 26 miles at the Boston Marathon, reciting the name of a different Native woman each time.
Jordan Marie Daniel is a citizen of the Kul Wicasa Oyate (Lower Brule Sioux Tribe) known in Indian Country for her advocacy and grassroots organization for anti-pipelines/climate justice efforts, change the name, MMIWG, and native youth initiatives. She is the founder of the Rising Hearts Coalition, described as “an Indigenous-led group designed to elevate awareness of indigenous issues while building collaborative partnerships to accomplish equitable and just treatment of all people and the earth we depend upon through targeted organizing and advocacy.”
Daniel is also the co-founder of DC ReInvest Coalition, sits on the Boards of Directors with Native Hope, PowerShift Network, and Lab29 and was recently named as a 2018 recipient of the NCAIED Native American 40 Under 40 award.
In an interview with Indian Country Today, Daniel described her experience via email at the Boston Marathon with a finish time of 3:02:11 and her hopes for MMIW awareness.
Vincent Schilling: Why did you decide to pray for MMIW name at each mile?
Jordan Marie Daniel: Before Boston, I ran the San Diego Half Marathon two years in a row, and dedicated my bib number to having #MMIW or #MMIWG on it instead of my name. This got people to ask what it meant and I was able to have meaningful dialogue with non-Natives about what this epidemic is in Indian Country, that it's happening right under their nose, in their community. But to me, this wasn't enough. I felt that just that BIB change, wasn't enough. A couple of weeks before the marathon, I was working with my coach to update my racing uniform to be the color red, with the MMIWG symbol and the words, "No More Stolen Sisters." But due to lack of time, we didn't hear back about being able to use the symbol I wanted until after this Boston run (so, this new uniform will be updated, all thanks to Indigenous Women Hike and Native Women Wilderness, for letting me wear the design on my singlets and running clothes to continue raising awareness for our stolen sisters.)
A week before the Boston Marathon, I figured, I'll paint this movement on my body, in the color red, and use the red handprint on my face to break the silence of the violence happening on our Indigenous womxn and peoples. I kept it to myself from the public. My parents and my partner knew and helped. But I didn't want to purposely make a spectacle about it. I wanted this run to be for our stolen sisters and my lala. It was my way to give these womxn a platform to be seen, heard, and remembered. It was a way to honor my lala with running since he passed away in 2016 from cancer, a couple of months after I completed my first Boston Marathon.
I found 26 names of Indigenous womxn stolen from our communities and luckily, just found out in the last two days, that Anela Gipp Alkire and Whisper Little Owl Horseman have been found. Which brings so much joy and very happy for those girls and their families. This run was for them. This run was something beyond myself, my way to connect to the lands, and beyond my efforts to try and run fast or get a certain time that I've trained for.
I only had about a month and a half to train when I was asked by Dustin Martin (Dine’, Wings Executive Director) to run, fundraise, and chaperone for Wings of America. The money raised goes towards the Wings Pursuit program, which brings 5 Native juniors to Boston to race in the BAA 5k and for a college visit with Harvard Unversity. Wings hopes to build healthy communities through Native youth running initiatives. It was incredible to be there with our future leaders and an honor to make this trip even more meaningful by honoring our stolen sisters.
Vincent Schilling: What were you feeling before you started the race?
Jordan Marie Daniel: I was feeling very calm. For the first time, I wasn't nervous for a race or thinking about splits. I knew that with the time I had training for the half marathon (which was about a month before the marathon) and the quick training course to be "marathon ready," that I would be just fine. My body would do what it was ready to do. I had gotten sick about two weeks before the marathon, because I was pushing my body too hard, to the point that the proteins in my body were breaking down and causing problems, even though it didn't feel it, but my body was telling me, to relax and take care of myself. Luckily I went to the doctor right away and it all was fine after a few days of rest and more lab results.
Deep down, I know I was nervous but only recognized that after the race, but I kept remembering and reading the names of our stolen sisters. I kept thinking about justice and healing. I kept thinking that their families and communities need that. My partner helped me put on the paint. It meant a lot to me to have him there as he has been so incredibly supportive of my work, my running, and my advocacy for my people. He knows how much honoring MMIWG means to me and he knows the emotional toll it takes on me when I am organizing for these womxn. This run was an honor and was the least I could to help elevate this epidemic and the real national crisis of missing and murdered indigenous womxn, children, and peoples to a higher platform.
This run was emotional, intense, and happy at the same time. Any discomfort I felt, I knew that this was in no way the same as these womxn and their families have felt or are feeling. I was honored to sacrifice my body in this way to run for them.
Vincent Schilling: What was the environment of the crowd like?
Jordan Marie Daniel: The fans and spectators of the Boston Marathon were amazing. You have people cheering you on the whole way. Being a runner since I was 10, and competing at a D1 college level and post-collegiately, the amount of cheering and crowds doesn't compare to Marathon Monday in Boston. They help you through it. They are there waiting with water, snacks, kisses or hugs to support you on are your running journey. It was great to see other Native relatives either at the Expo or during the marathon. I ran by a friend of mine, a Hopi sister, Caroline around the halfway point, and ran by a Dine’ brother, Harold Bennally who ran in his moccasins.
From an article I read after the marathon, there were 16 Indigenous runners in the marathon. Wings Executive Director, Dustin Martin ran 2 hours and 26 minutes, first Native to cross the finish line. The crowds' energy, gave me energy. People were cheering all of us on. I heard people yell my name and one person yelled, "go MMIW." The support was incredible. And seeing my mom and my partner at the halfway point was beautiful and needed. I needed to see their faces. My partner ran with me for about a quarter mile, giving me Gatorade and my gels. He told me my mom was up on the right, and she was lilili'ing and I found her and lilili'd back. I felt energized again to keep praying and keep running.
Vincent Schilling: How did it feel at each mile to say a name / or a prayer?
Jordan Marie Daniel: It was heartbreaking. It was saddening to know that I could even have a list of names, for 26 miles to pray for. I'd say their name out loud and pray for her and her family. Then I'd finish the rest of that mile to take in the crowds, refuel, connect my feet to the ground before I did it again. On Heartbreak Hill, I found it ironic at the same time, because of the name and because of what I was running for. I'd randomly think of the womxn, their families, their children, and kept asking, why do I have to do this? Why is there even an issue? Why can't we just protect our relatives and find solutions to end the violence? And I kept hoping that I was doing good for them.
Vincent Schilling: I saw the tweet where you saw your mom halfway through the marathon … very cool moment, how did that feel?
Jordan Marie Daniel: It was AMAZING. I was getting worried that I wouldn't see her because it might be too crowded. I was worried because I know she doesn't like crowds or driving through cities. So it meant the world to me to have my Ina drive from Virginia to Boston to see me and support me. Luckily, my partner Devin did all the driving in the city for us. He drove them to Wellesley to see me at the halfway point, then drove back to the hotel, then they Ubered to Fenway, to see me after mile 25, and helped her get through the crowds to see me at the finish line/meet up point. And he drove me all the way to Hopkinton, to drop me off at the buses that were taking the runners to Athletes Village a couple of miles away. He took care of her. She took care of us. And her being there, with a photo of my lala Nyal Brings, a drawing of him running and credited with a 4:10 mile for his time at the finish line, meant everything. And made me feel that this run, was meant to happen.
Vincent Schilling: How did it feel to finish the race?
Jordan Marie Daniel: It felt overwhelmingly emotional. I felt so happy to finish. Then all of a sudden, I felt the discomfort and pain. My heart ached but I felt proud. Patti Dillon, Mi'kmaq, and Wings Board of Directors, and first Native woman to break 2 hours and 30 minutes in the marathon at the NYC marathon, her husband, and film director of 3100, that includes Shaun Martin and the Navajo People in the film and running, Sanjay Rawal, greeted me at the finish.
I just started crying when I hugged her and told her about the run. I felt that this was the best I could do for our relatives. I had no idea the attention that our stolen sisters would receive, beyond within our Indigenous communities. I'm very happy that I can help with my running platform. And I will continue to do so. I have a half marathon coming up in June, and another marathon in the early fall. I have big goals for my running after this race, competitively speaking, but I plan to keep running for our stolen sisters moving forward. Running and praying for our relatives.
Vincent Schilling: What words or messages of support have you had?
So far, the comments and messages I've received have been incredible. I appreciate it all. And I have heard from some of the family members of the sisters I prayed for. And that MEANT THE WORLD TO ME. I hope I can connect with them and help them in any capacity I am able to and hope to continue this in the future.
Now, we have May 5th coming up, the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Womxn and Girls. And Red Earth Co and Native Women Running have partnered together to have that day be a Virtual Run day as well for national awareness. They have created a shirt to honor this movement and proceeds for towards National Indigenous Women's Resource Center. Indigenous Women Hike and Native Women Wilderness have re-launched the MMIWG redshirt campaign — the image and symbol I am honored to wear on my new, future racing singlet — as well in lieu of May 5th. So many relatives are doing amazing things to organize and be voices for our stolen sisters and for all things happening within our Tribal communities. I'm very proud of them. And I'm very proud to be Indigenous, to be Lakota.
Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter - @VinceSchilling
Indian Country Today, LLC. is a non-profit, public media enterprise. Reader support is critical. We do not charge for subscriptions and tribal media (or any media, for that matter) can use our content for free. Our goal is public service. Please join our cause and support independent journalism today. We have an audacious plan for 2019 and your donation will help us make it so. Thank you.