By Dawn Aerts
Iron County Today
CEDAR CITY–When the young men of the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah gather for their 10th Spirit Run on Sept. 22, they will run strong alongside fathers, brothers, uncles, adult role models and mentors who hope to engage them in a long life of healing, peace and strength.
It is not an athletic competition designed to record time, or distance, but rather to represent a ‘rite of passage’ that asks them to dedicate themselves to a healthy life style, and the conditioned endurance that young men were expected to develop as they assumed their role in the traditions of a culture.
“This run represents hope for a healthy ‘rite of passage,’” said Tyler Goddard, acting health director for the Cedar City-based Paiute Tribe, who has participated many times since the event began in 2008. “We know that all young men need someone to look up to, to be the person who provides a leadership role into their adulthood.”
It is based on the traditions of the Native American and Paiute culture. “The outstanding runners in a family or Band would become key figures in their role as healthy warriors — they were relied on for widespread communication with a proven ability to travel great distances on foot of paramount importance,” Goddard said.
According to Goddard, their first Spirit Run enlisted four runners, but that number grew to 55 in the fifth year.
In previous years, the run was a 10-mile-trek along the base of Cedar Mountain with panoramas that were revealed to young runners over a hundred years ago. It is an event that asks today’s runners to condition themselves for weather and distance; to be conscious of diet and the stamina required to run strong.
This year’s event covers a 15-mile route that Goddard said will remind runners of the Paiute people who once lived and moved through vast regions of South and Central Utah, Northwest Arizona, and Southeastern Nevada. “Without horses, these young men were expected to be the reliable messenger — to run distances with very little provision or sleep.”
It was Damon Polk, a former substance abuse counselor for the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, who helped organize the early event. “He wanted to recognize this time of seasonal change in the homelands, the need to support the right of passage for boys whose lives are changing into adolescence,” said Goddard, “But it’s also a time of hope and celebration.”
The physical and mental preparation for youth is supervised under the guidance, direction, and encouragement of healthy adult role models and is designed to promote health, vitality and resistance to substance abuse. The course begins with a 6 a.m. informational meeting, then transport to a start point above Kanarraville and ceremony.
The Spirit Run is sponsored by the tribe’s community health centers, Four Points Health, and invites the community at large (male runners age 13 and up) to participate and run in partnership with the Cedar City Police Department, Adult Parole and Probation, Division Child and Family Services, Southwest Behavioral Health Center, Southern Utah University, Department of Human Services and Utah Office of Indian Affairs.
It was a society of healthy warriors who protected their community.
According to Goddard, the event will provide support vehicles, runners will stay together and no one is required to finish the entire 15-mile route.
“The theme ‘Moo ‘ koo uv Toho wee’ translates to Spirit Runners in the Paiute language,” said Goddard of a concluding celebration with a presentation of jackets to the runners, young men sharing drum and bird songs and a feast of bison-burgers. “This is an important time for our young people as they are the ones that we will put our trust in – and, we’ll be welcoming all of the runners ‘home.’”
Photo Caption: (left to right) Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah “Spirit Runners” Cody Tom, Waylon Pete, Andrew Lanza and Sincere ‘Gus’ Dixon (back row) James Toledo. Organizers invite all male runners 13 years of age and up, to join the 10th Annual Spirit Run Sat., Sept. 22nd which begins with a 6 a.m. information meeting (conference room), transportation to start point, and run which concludes at the Tribal gymnasium (estimated 10:30) and concludes with a celebration lunch.
*The Spirit Run is made possible under the guidance, direction and the encouragement of healthy adult role models from the Five Bands of the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah. All participating runners should pre-register by calling Tyler Goddard prior to the event for details, 435-586-1112, ext. 310 or email@example.com.