A little over ten years ago, Verna Volker, a Navajo mom of three from Minneapolis, decided she wanted to adjust her routine to a more active lifestyle and decided to take up running. Within a few years, and another child later, Volker became a more avid runner having participated in 5K’s 10K’s and is now working her way to 50K’s (about 30 miles.)
During her trajectory, Volker noticed a lack of representation in the running world for Native women. She created the Instagram account @Native_Women_Running to feature Native women in the running community. As a Native woman, Volker also has a connection to the importance of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.
Volker decided to combine the two issues and created the idea to have a virtual MMIW run on Sunday, May 5th.
“After running in half-marathons, marathons and more I was hooked,” Volker told Indian Country Today. “I thought I would like to start a virtual run, a lot of communities are doing this sort of thing online. I have a heart for MMIW and I have a six-year-old daughter. As a Native woman, I have a connection to this.”
Volker told Indian Country Today that anyone, at any level could participate. Noting if they were not able to run, they could share about the run to increase awareness. “Anyone can participate. Not everyone is at a level to run, Some people can run 5K’s, some run more. The essence of this virtual run is that it isn’t just about one person it’s about representation in the running world and creating awareness about MMIW.”
Volker met with Dirk Whitebreast, Meskwaki, who is the owner and operator of the Red Earth Running Company located outside Tama, Iowa on the Meskwaki Indian settlement. According to Whitebreast, Verna’s idea of a virtual run appealed to him. Wishing to help spread awareness, he decided he would do anything to help.
“The run is meant to bring attention to the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and the MMIW movement as a whole,” said Whitebreast. “Red Earth Running Company, the running company I own and operate, is working in partnership with Verna Volker of Minneapolis, she is one of our brand athletes, Verna runs the Instagram account Native Women Running and has shared her experience as a Navajo woman living in the Twin Cities, a community in which this issue has a direct impact on its Indigenous citizens.”
“We’re doing our part to bring attention to the issue by organizing a virtual run to be held on Sunday. A virtual run is basically a run that can be done anywhere, anytime. There is no registration fee, no time and/or distance expectations. The only goal is to bring attention to this issue through physical activity. We are asking people to wear red on this day, maybe even organize a group run event in their own community. We are also asking people to find us on Instagram and Facebook, using the tags @redearthrunco and @native_women_running as well as the hashtags #nativewomenrunning and #MMIW.”
In support of the effort, Red Earth Running Company has put out a limited edition tee shirt to commemorate the day. A portion of the proceeds from shirt sales is going to the Urban Indian Health Institute of Seattle, the institute that put out a report on the Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls in 2018.
“A large number of communities have already confirmed participation in this weekend’s virtual run, including representation from Alaska, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Florida, Kansas, Washington, New York, Utah, Texas, Wisconsin, Arizona, and California to name a few,” said Whitebreast.
“We’ve also confirmed International participation from groups in Canada, London, England, as well as Indigenous Aboriginal relatives in Australia. There’s going to be a lot of energy in the air on this day.”
Volker says the day is important in spreading this awareness for MMIW and said she was appreciative of the support from Indian Country.
“I would just like to ask people to educate themselves about MMIW,” said Volker.
“I want people to know that what we are doing really matters, whether you are participating as part of a big group or walking alone. What you are doing will make a difference.”
For more information:
Red Earth Running Company - @redearthrunco (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) www.redearthrun.co
Purchase the T-Shirt - https://redearthrun.co/products/2019-mmiw-virtual-run-tee