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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Hoop Run Aims To Encourage Youth
by KERRI REMPP - Chadron (NE) Record staff writer

For 27 years, participants in the Sacred Hoop 500-mile Run have completed a loop around the Black Hills to encourage Native American youth to take pride in their culture. The run is a deeply ingrained tradition in the Lays Bad family, which has had a strong presence in the event from the beginning.

Ramsey Lays Bad was instrumental in starting the run in 1983. An elder in the tribe, he and others wanted to do something to combat cultural and identity issues the youth of the community were facing. The idea of the Sacred Hoop Run seemed a good fit because of an inter-generational story in the Native American culture. The story tells of a race around the sacred Black Hills by the Animal Nation, said Gary Lays Bad, Ramsey’s son. Because the animals, including the buffalo, can no longer roam freely and take part in the race, the Native American participants run to honor them.

The Sacred Hoop Run covers 500 miles over six days, with participants running and riding in vehicles as they travel from Bear Butte, S.D., to Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana before returning to Bear Butte. The runners were in Whiteclay and Chadron and at Fort Robinson early last week and were scheduled to finish the run at Bear Butte June 26.

As the decades have passed, the Lays Bad family and other organizers have tackled additional issues.

“We add today’s issues – drugs, alcohol, gang violence and abuse,” Gary said. “We believe that goes to identity.”

If youth have a better understanding of their culture and of themselves and know that things like alcohol and drugs will destroy them, they’re more apt to avoid using them, he said. For participants who had never visited Whiteclay, the trip through town on the Sacred Hoop Run was a shock, as they saw the damage alcohol can do. The issue with Whiteclay, which sells millions of cans of beer each year, much of it to the reservation, is why Duane Martin, Sr. has been invited to be part of the run the last two years. Martin is a leader in the Strong Heart Civil Rights Movement and spoke in Whiteclay about alcohol sales and treaty rights, another focus of the run. Martin is planning a blockade at Whiteclay July 1.

Randy Lays Bad, Gary’s brother, emphasized that the run is not a protest. Rather it’s a way to let everyone know the Native Americans are still here and are dealing with various issues. It’s a way to raise cultural awareness on and off the reservation, he said. Randy hopes in the future the Sacred Hoop Run will produce youth delegates who can travel to Washington, D.C., to lobby for the Native American’s treaty rights.

Gary and Randy’s mother, Clara, has taken part in the Sacred Hoop Run each year since her husband started it. Though she’s slowed down a bit and doesn’t do as much running, she still believes it’s important to take part, especially since she now has three generations participating. She and her grandchildren often walk together to prepare for the event, and several of them took part this year.

“She’s a big inspiration to the youth when they see her out there,” Gary said proudly.

Approximately 120 people signed up for this year’s run, Gary said. Each of three groups has a team and run relay-style over the route.

“We try to make every mile count.”

Participants camp at the Prairie Winds Casino, Fort Robinson, Beaver Creek and Devils Tower. Randy said they try to keep the campsites as primitive as possible to remove the youth from the influences of television and video games. Instead, they tell stories around the campfire, play traditional Native American hand games and sing songs.

“We try to teach the language, culture and history so they don’t lose it,” Randy said.

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