In a remarkable display of resilience and solidarity, a team of six individuals from the Kainai Nation in southern Alberta is undertaking a cross-Canada journey aimed at healing and prayers for families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and men (MMIWM).
Their journey, known as Napi’s Run 2023 for MMIWM and Mother Earth, refers to all runners, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, who have and will join them on their travels across Canada. (Napi is a Blackfoot word that means friend.)
The group began their momentous run on April 12 in St. John’s, with a mission to cover a staggering 5,062 kilometers to Victoria. Along the way, they have been stopping at First Nations communities, engaging with families and listening to their stories. On June 19, the 69th day of their journey, the group reached the Saskatchewan-Alberta border before making their way toward Brooks, Alta.
The group aims to cover approximately 60 km per day, with each runner completing a daily distance of 10 km. Alongside their prayers and healing efforts, the team is spreading important messages, including the significance of Every Child Matters and raising awareness about the ongoing opioid crisis in their communities.
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Ramona Bighead, a high school principal from the Blood Reserve in Alberta, has been the co-ordinator and brains behind this journey from the beginning, says the group dedicates each daily run to First Nations individuals who are still in mourning. “The purpose of daily dedications is for us to call on them to help us and pray for loved ones healing,” says Bighead.
Mackenzie Cross Child, one of the six members of the Napi Run team, seeks to offer strength to his mother, Michelle, as she recovers from cancer. For Cross Child and the entire team, this journey represents more than just running—it serves as a powerful means of healing, generating positive energy that resonates with everyone they encounter.
Saskatoon marathoner and founder of Prarie Run Crew Tarrant Cross Child, a cousin of Mackenzie Cross Child’s, spent three days and 80 kilometers running with the group through Saskatchewan. “It was fun being able to exchange the lipstick from him to me and myself back to him,” says Tarrant Cross Child. “I really enjoyed my time running with them.”
The Kainai Nation runners are not only advocating for justice and remembrance, but also cultivating a spirit of unity and resilience that surpasses boundaries—an inspiration to First Nation communities throughout Canada.