UAII’s 5K Run for the Peoples

The future’s looking brighter for American Indians living in Los Angeles. Ever since the City Council voted to eliminate Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous Peoples Day, Los Angeles American Indians have felt a growing sense of pride and contentment as fully recognized members of the greater Los Angeles community.

Monday, October 8th marked the very first Indigenous Peoples Day event in LA, and United American Indian Involvement (UAII) was at its forefront, together with Councilman Mitch O’Farrell. In downtown Los Angeles City Hall at 7 A.M, a deep vibrational sound pierced the morning air as a musician known as a “quiquizoani” in Nahuatl sounded the conch shell, engendering a meditative atmosphere for the over 400 people from 200+ tribes in attendance. Following a sunrise ceremony at 1st and Main, the festivities quickly shifted into high gear with the highly anticipated “Run for the People” 5k run/walk, sponsored by UAII. The run/walk aimed to promote community engagement and health awareness for UAII’s growing client base, and all ages were in attendance, with a noticeably large presence among the youth.

One youth, 18-year-old Destiny Acevedo (Akimel O’odham and Tohono O’odham), shared her view on the 5k run/walk and LA’s first Indigenous Peoples Day. “I actually did a 10k because I did it twice,” boasted Acevedo, who came to the event with her sister and mother. “I’m so excited about Indigenous Peoples Day because we finally have a day to ourselves. As Natives, we don’t get recognized as much as other cultures. But on this day, it feels like everyone has all their attention on us. Just to say we’re still here, gives me pride,” she remarked excitedly.

When asked about her hopes and dreams for the future, Acevedo seemed to hold back tears and stated: “Waking up in the morning and having pride within yourself, knowing who you are and where you came from. To be recognized for who you are. I stand with pride in that.”

Growing up, Acevedo participated in UAII’s Pow-Wow Dance Workshop, and was an active member of the UAII Youth Club. “I really want to say thank you to UAII,” she enthused. “UAII teaches us the ways of our culture. Some people aren’t experienced in our ways, but UAII helps us to know better, and to help each other. I really want to say thank you to them.”

Due in large part to the support she received through UAII, Acevedo is now highly committed to achieving her career goals without losing her traditional values. “I want to graduate from a good college and get into animation because I love art,” she said with confidence. Before returning to the event, Acevedo proudly exhibited her Pima maze ring. “It’s a symbol of my culture.”

The event was organized by UAII staff and volunteers who were able to register runners and walkers along with pass out much needed water and snacks. The event start with L.A. City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell joining our community at the starting line on the corner of Mains Street and 1st Street. Many of the participants dressed in traditional regalia, moccasins, and some wrapped themselves in the flags of their tribal nations.

As a horn sounded the runners made their way up 1st street as all the intersections were blocks off for the participants. The councilmember held a traditional staff that had been blessed by the Tongva represented during the sunrise ceremony. The Staff was then passed to UAII Development Director, Joseph Quintana, before he later passed the staff on to CFO, Luis Cervantes.

Joseph who also sits as an appointed commissioner to the L.A. City County Native American Commission which as a coalition helped replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Poeples Day remarked “It was such a beautiful thing to see our people and our community running together, to see the people smiling and to be filled with a sense of pride really makes it all worth it. All the hours and time dedicated to advocating on behalf of our community – it finally set in that we had done something special in our City.” Joseph added “We have a lot of other things to work on now – homelessness, quality healthcare, educating our people, etc. but for now we will enjoy this with our community”.

Throughout the event there was a lot of press coverage as people wanted to know what was going on in Downtown L.A. The rest of the day featured: a procession of Tribes, workshops held in City Hall, a Pow-Wow, fashion show, and culminated with a performance by the world renowned music artists, the Black Eyed Peas and the band REDBONE.

As this was a momentous day in L.A.’s history in recognizing its original inhabitants of this continent, we want to continue to work towards instilling positive role models in our community and forever change stereotypes of Native people that are harmful to all in our community.