Half marathon seeks to bring awareness to Native American boarding schools

DAVENPORT, Wash. — At the end of September, a half marathon will be held to bring awareness to the boarding schools Native Americans were sent to and how they’ve affected communities.

Danny Brigman, organizer of the event and member of the Spokane tribe, said the marathon will start in the Spokane Indian reservation and end at Two Rivers.

Fort Spokane was once used as a boarding school, which opened in 1900 and closed in 1914.

The dark history of boarding schools in North America hits close to home for Brigman because some of his family members have experienced it. This includes two relatives who went to Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, where hundreds of graves of Indigenous children were discovered.

READ: Over 600 bodies found at Indigenous school in Canada

Young children were taken from their homes and some never saw their families again, he said. A father himself, Brigman said he couldn’t imagine having his two daughters taken from him and not be able to do anything about it.

“We had a whole generation taken from their families and raised by abusive nuns and priests. Then they came back and carried that trauma with them and we still feel the affects today,” he said.

Fort Spokane Marathon

Courtesy of Danny Brigman

“My grandma Alvina Wood, who passed away earlier this year, she went through the boarding schools here in the U.S. I’m actually happy for her that she did not have to experience what is happening right now and have those wounds reopened,” Brigman said. “She was a strong woman who had to bury two husbands and six of her sixteen children. She lived a long life and didn’t need this added pain.”

After he organized the 215-mile relay for Kamloops in June, he knew this wasn’t going to be the end of it.

With this marathon, he wanted bring awareness to the history behind Fort Spokane, and said they need to know if children were buried there and how many.

Brigman described how it’s important people know some of those who went to these schools are still alive, and it’s a wrong that has never been made right.

“The goal of the event is to raise awareness about boarding schools, our lost children, and how it affects us today,” Brigman said. “By having a run I hope to have some non-Native runners to come out, participate, and see what this is about.”

Native American Event Flier Danny Brigman

Flier of remembrance event at Fort Spokane. Courtesy of Danny Brigman

After the run, Brigman said they will be having an event at Fort Spokane to honor the children who were there. Tribal elders will speaking to their experiences at the event. It will happen at 1 p.m.

All proceeds from the event will go to the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition.

The half marathon will start Thursday, Sept. 30. You can sign up for it here.

Registration for the event ends on Sept. 17. However, registration for the virtual run ends on Sept. 29. You can find the latest updates on the event here.

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