Day One of 4-Day Spiritual Run for Sobriety Slows Traffic in Bemidji
Bemidji “rush hour” commuters got an unintended and perhaps unrecognized lesson in circular versus linear time, as runners from Red Lake ran down the middle of Paul Bunyan Drive through the entire city west to east about 5 PM Tuesday. The run slowed traffic and perhaps life a bit, as cars and trucks moved slowly into the left lane in order to pass the entourage of Red Lake runners and support vehicles commanding the right lane.
A Spiritual Run in Celebration of Sobriety began at Red Lake Chemical Health Programs at 11:00 AM Tuesday August 2, 2011. The run would last four days and end at Mash Ka wisen treatment center at Fond du Lac on Friday evening August 5. The slogan for the 200 mile “crow-hop” relay run is Gigazoongaadizim Bimibatoog! (Live strong! Run!)
At about 10:30 AM, an opening ceremony and smudging of Staffs, runners, and supporters was held outside the Chemical health program offices at Red Lake. That evening they would arrive at the Leech Lake Veterans Memorial Grounds near Cass Lake for a feast and camping.
Day 2 would bring the runners to the Itasca County Fairgrounds at Grand Rapids, Day 3 to Floodwood, and Day 4 to Fond du Lac reservation (a distance of some 200 miles) where a celebration awaits.
More than a dozen runners, including several youth began their run down Highway 89, on a warm August Day with the temperature approaching the low 80’s. The runners were accompanied by a near equal number of support staff, who would use five or six vans and cars to shuttle the runners, to provide water, and any other service the runners might need. Each team or individual runner would run 3/10 of a mile, then be shuttled ahead of the four or five other teams, allowing time to rest while awaiting their turn to run again.
Things got interesting when the runners reached Bemidji. Red Lake Chairman Floyd Jourdain, Jr. and Daryl Waybenais took charge of the eagle staff and began a stretch run through the entire city. Starting near the Target store where Hwy. 2 becomes Paul Bunyan Drive NW, shoulders are no more on the four lane thoroughfare. The county sheriff was alerted to the run and promised to provide and escort.
This reporter joined the runners near Bemidji State University at about 4:30 PM, the beginning of Bemidji’s “rush hour”. Ahead was a law enforcement vehicle with lights flashing, but was about five cars back, behind the runner’s support vehicles. Commuter cars and trucks were moving slowly as they had to move to the left lane to get around the Spirit runners and supporters. Drivers may have been wondering what the hold up was, but upon seeing the Eagle staff, many honked horns in support.
It was reported that the Sheriff’s office was in a bit of a tizzy because they thought the runners should be on the sidewalk, an impossibility of course, because support vehicles must be near-by to provide water or assistance if something was needed, and for safety.
At one point law enforcement asked the runners to use the sidewalk. One of the runners, pointed out that the sheriff said an escort would be provided, and so the “request” to move from the road was paid no heed. The two runners continued to jog down the middle of the right hand traffic lane, Eagle Staff held high when crossing intersections, and to demonstrations of support.
A photo shows Floyd Jourdain, Jr. Chairman of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians raising the Eagle staff as he goes through the intersection of Hwy 2 and 71, the last intersection before turning east on the Old Cass Lake Highway (Roosevelt Rd.) and the safety of street shoulders again. Traffic was backed up, but no one was delayed more than a minute or two.
Many in Bemidji that day may have learned that “Indian time” is much more than the stereotypical “being late”, it is a way of approaching life. If witnesses of this Spirit Run took time to contemplate this “unusual” Bemidji event, they might realize they saw a demonstration of linear versus circular time. Running through the city was the most natural thing in the world for these First Americans, a Spiritual Run being much more important than a little traffic slow-down. Said a Red Lake runner, “Things get done, when things get done, and no sooner”.