Getting up to speed with Native Women Running

By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List

HOKA ONE ONE ultra-runner, Verna Volker, is asking you to go the distance to support Indigenous women and girls.

Verna Volker wakes most mornings before the sun, laces up her HOKA running shoes, and heads east.

“In our culture, when you wake up in the morning, you run to the east to greet the creator and say your prayers," she tells us.

Volker is a member of the southwest-based Navajo Nation Tribe and the founder of Native Women Running. Now in her 40's, the mother of four is an ultra-runner and has tallied about 900 miles just this year.

These miles are even more impressive when we learn that Volker hasn't always been a dedicated runner. In fact, it wasn't until 2009 that she made running a habit as a way to return to a healthier lifestyle. She'd dabbled in running in high school for basketball conditioning, and then again in college, but it wasn't until her latest attempt that she began to realize the mental and spiritual power of the sport.

"When I run I feel myself healing, and this healing empowers me," Volker says. "My running is a reminder of acknowledging who I am as a Native woman. It's connection to the land and empowering other Native women on their running journey."

Native Women Running

Through the years and the distance, Volker became frustrated at the lack of representation for the Native American community in the sport. That's why she founded a group on social media called Native Women Running. What began as a way to connect with her Indigenous sisters in the pursuit of running became a way to celebrate resilience amongst the Native American community and to advocate for awareness of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW).

About MMIW in the United States

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Native women are murdered at a rate of up to 10 times higher than other ethnicities. And the majority of these murders are committed by non-Native people. Another statistic: 84% of Native/Indigenous women will experience violence in their lifetime.

It's hard to even quantify the violence against Native American women, because sufficient data systems do not yet exist. In 2016, the National Crime Information Center reported that there were 5,712 reports of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls, yet the US Department of Justice’s federal missing persons database logged just 116 cases.

A new federal law could begin a difference-making process.

To a significant extent, the key to addressing this violence will be communication between tribal law enforcement and local, state, and federal agencies. In October 2020, Congress passed into law the Savanna's Act, a bill that directs the Department of Justice (DOJ) to review, revise, and develop law enforcement and justice protocols to address missing or murdered Native Americans.

YOUR CALL TO ACTION

Verna Volker and Native Women Running request your help.

An important place to begin is to join the MMIW Virtual Run Fundraising Event this May 5th. The mission of the event is to be in solidarity with Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirits, grieving families, and individuals working on the frontlines to end this epidemic of violence against Indigenous people.

RACE OVER HERE to learn more and register for the MMIW Virtual Run, presented by HOKA ONE ONE.

*Important*: You don't have to run to participate! The MMIW Virtual Event is a race at your own pace and place. You can run, walk, bike, hike; basically, any movement, anywhere.

How to get even more involved now and down the road.

Follow Native Women Running on Insta.


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We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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