Running connects us all in unique ways. This International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (observed on August 9th), we’re hearing from runner and advocate Jordan Daniel on her newly-formed group called, “Running With Purpose.” She is a member of the Lakota nation and is using her voice to lift the concerns of Indigenous Peoples everywhere.
1. In recognizing International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples we wanted to know how your work as an Indigenous advocate has connected you to Indigenous peoples everywhere?
Jordan: My work as an advocate has connected me to Indigenous peoples everywhere because my heart work is intersectional. My advocacy and community organizing began fighting for climate justice and missing and murdered Indigenous women and relatives, as this epidemic is heavily influenced by the fossil fuel industry. Through organizing, it connected me to so many different, empowering and inspiring voices from so many different Nations, Villages, Tribes, and communities. It has brought me closer to our relatives, an opportunity to learn new perspectives and teachings, and has allowed a beautiful pathway forward in cultivating meaningful and purposeful relationships with the same end goal - fighting for a better and safer future for our next generations.
2. Since first deciding to become an advocate for Indigenous communities in the eighth grade, what have been some of the proudest moments of your advocacy work?
Jordan: Some of the most proudest moments I’ve been grateful to witness and experience are bringing supplies and money to the frontlines in Standing Rock to help our relatives. Community really showed up for us and we were able to bring a lot to Standing Rock. Another one was when Rising Hearts helped bring over 200k people to Washington DC to march for climate justice, working with my friends and relatives leading up to that day - the hours of planning and the day of, was truly beautiful and emotional to witness. It was a big, collaborative effort that made me so proud of our heart work and what community truly means.
And the most personal proud moment was being able to inspire our younger generations, Rosalie Fish. She saw my 2019 Prayer run for missing and murdered Indigenous women and relatives at the Boston Marathon and was happy to see a Native woman take a stand for something. That run - I had no intentions of anything but to honor and run in prayer for our relatives. And hearing from Rosalie afterwards, wanting to do the same thing at her upcoming state track meet - I was speechless and so happy. Then she did the same thing, inspired more and elevated this epidemic to a higher platform, and it’s been really amazing to witness and assured me that we can always have an impact or influence, on just 1 person or hundreds.
3. You gained national attention when you ran the Boston Marathon in 2019 for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and have been continuing to use running as a form of advocacy ever since. What is it about running and advocacy that you find so compatible?
Jordan: I’m definitely not the first to intersect running with advocacy. There are many before me. For me personally, I think it took a culmination of events to happen and frustration to occur, for me to kind of just throw my hands in the air, and give up on people caring about Indigenous peoples and all the organizing to get them involved to find a way to really honor those I fight for and care about. And that moment at Boston was that for me. After 2 years in a row at my San Diego half marathon, trying to raise awareness about MMIW on my BIB and hoping it would spark conversations about it, it didn’t.
After a few years of organizing panels and vigils to bring people together to take action and be more informed, then seeing the end result and responsibilities still predominantly lying with the families, advocates and organizers and no one else helping, that showed me that I can find another to give back. So for me, that was to give back through my love of running. Up until then, I had really kept my running, especially competitively, separate. I had participated on prayer runs before and have learned from those that have done them and felt, maybe that’s what I can do to honor, remember and pray for our stolen relatives. It intersected in such a spiritually, powerful and emotional way. And is something that I will continue doing. Running as a form of advocacy tells a story, it helps personalize the issue you fight for, and luckily, the running community is there to help support most often. It’s a platform that can raise awareness and bring people together. It’s why I enjoy it so much.
4. What led you to starting the “Running With Purpose” run club this summer?
Jordan: I realized I am not the only one using my running platform to raise awareness about something I care about and pushing for social change. I have many friends from the professional level to the recreational level who are all sharing their time on the roads or trails to raise awareness about what they care about and it helps cultivate community in a meaningful way. This collective is also a way for our 30 Athlete Advocates to be centered in what they do, be intersectional, create a safe space for different perspectives and lived experiences to be heard and supported, as well as pushing for accountability, justice, equity, equality, safety,mental health support, hiring diverse voices to be on the Boards, Councils and employees, diversity and inclusion efforts in the running and outdoor communities.
Many brands and companies are now on the bandwagon to focus on diversity, equity and inclusion iniatitives and programs, but most often, they are still causing harm on Indigenous, Black, brown, Asian, Muslim, Two Spirit, LGBTQ+ bodies, Non-binary kin, and people with disabilities, and that has to end. Our voices are calling for more meaningful relationships, sustainable support, and protection of our voices when we’re asked to write a story or be featured on their platform. I truly feel as advocates, we also shouldn’t be treated the same as the professional athletes who only focus on running. Our voices and experiences hold truth - we represent our communities, and that has to be supported in every way possible - not to just be tokenized or be a check in the box. We are here to collaborate, consult, and amplify the heart work that is happening across our communities.
5. What impact do you hope this group will make on the wider running community?
Jordan: I hope our impact is to change the running community in a more transformative and meaningful way. I hope the running community and brands will invest in the heart work and be committed to the heart work with us. I hope this helps pave a pathway forward for our younger generations to see themselves and know they belong and have every right to be here and reach for the same goals. I hope our impact allows others to think of running in a different way, to find what it is they want and stand for, it can be anything and to also foster a deeper connection to community and to the lands we run on. It isn’t always about a fast time or place - those can always still be a goal or ambition, but for me, I’ve found new purpose to my running that I’ll never forget. It’s brought me closer to community and new relatives I call family.
6. What advice would you give to other runners who want to “run with purpose?”
Jordan: You don’t need to have it all figured out. Don’t freak out or worry that you haven’t found that purpose. I’ve been running for 23 years, and it always changes for me from running as a family tradition and culture, to Native representation as an athlete, to finally running for myself to 2019, finding purpose in running for those who are no longer here. It took time. Don’t rush the process. Enjoy running. And if you do want to use running as a platform for awareness, you need to first figure out what you stand for or against, then do the work to educate yourself, volunteer with the groups or organizers who do the work, show up, and start intersecting running and advocacy. And last thing, prioritizing self-care and your mental health is key to sustainable advocacy. Nothing will change overnight, it’s going to take time, so remember to be kind to yourself during the process.
7. As a member of the ShokzSquad, we’ve got to know, when you are running with your AfterShokz, what inspirational podcasts, music, or audio are you listening to?Jordan: For Podcasts, I love listening to Dinée Dorame’s (Diné, Navajo Nation) podcast, Grounded, as well as the Running Fat Chef (Latoya Snell), Matriarch Movement Podcast by Shayla Stonechild, Ologies, For The Wild, Running for Real by Tina Muir, and The Trail Ahead by Faith Briggs and Addie Thompson. For music, I love listening to A Tribe Called Red (now Halluci Nation), IHF, Quantum Tangle, Sol Rising, Northern Cree, Mauve, Big Wild, Black Pumas, Odesza and more to keep me positive for runs or leading up to a run.