Echos Of Futures Past, Part IV: Yatika Fields

Fields, a Cherokee, Creek and Osage Tribal member, is an artist and ultra marathon runner.

As an outsider it’s hard to have a voice. It’s hard to find a voice if you’ve been oppressed, you know? It takes a strong person and that usually comes from a strong family where it’s already been in play. My Father was an activist, my Mom was a part of that, too. He was a part of the Alcatraz takeover before AIM happened. It was always instilled in us to be proud of who you are and don’t take shit. Believe in what you believe in with passion and be proud of who you are as a Native person.

What’s worse than your culture and your families being oppressed? Being put to genocide? What’s worse than that, man? For real. Look in yourself. Yeah, there are global things but we are talking about trauma that’s still being brought to light. These micro aggressions and words that you bring people into? It cesspools into more ideologies about something that’s not right. It continues a path of divisions, a path of not correct alignment culturally. It’s about the treatment of people. By having the race called that (Land Run 100) it perpetuates this ideology of land and people and it continues this oppression. That’s where it’s wrong. To me, it’s fucked up. 

Someone else had made an Instagram post about the Land Run 100, and why the name was fucked up and they made a really good point, it was written well. I turned that into a story and I tagged Land Run 100 on it. *laughs* And he knew what I was saying. Bobby hit me up and was like, “I’ve been thinking about this.” I said, “Yeah, I think it (a name change) would be good.” and that’s how it started. Because I didn’t want to blast him with it. But I’d had conversations with other people before about that and the Land Run 100. I knew it would happen, it was just the how, maybe? I guess this was the time, with that poke. I’m a Native from Stillwater, from Oklahoma, I know a large platform of people and activists and artists and lawyers and writers and everyone. I know Bobby, too, we have the same friends who are athletes. I was a bike courier in New York City for 10 years so we have a lot of friends who come from all over to do the race. We have friends and sports in common. I wasn’t trying to pick a fight, I was trying to bring to light what we were discussing and how to move forward in having conversations about the past.

To me the Land Run 100 is like restaging the Land Run every time you have the race by having it called that. “Oh, free for all!! Take over the land and take dominance over the past.” Because every land is sacred. Every land has history. And I’m trying to incorporate that, too, in ultra running because there is only one Native American race, the Canyon De Chelly Ultra, and it’s a Navajo based race. They respect the Earth that we run on, they have a prayer for everyone. Then they go up and do the 55k in the canyon. It’s the only time you can run in the canyon without a Navajo guide. It’s beautiful but it’s the only one. All these ultra races take place over really sacred lands all over the United States. But there’s no land acknowledgement at the beginning of any races. There’s no discussion of the past and what these mountains are called or the histories of them. The majority of the white runners, it’s a majority white sport, there’s no Blacks or many Natives in it at all, don’t know anything about it.

Yes, running is beautiful and it’s meant to be experienced running freely through the wilds but also be mindful of where you are running and the past. That will only make your understanding and knowledge of the lands that you’re traversing that much better. You’re paying respect because Earth is about respect. This knowledge is about respect. That’s how it works. What we’ve lost in this world is that lack of it and understanding and therefore we’ve faltered as a human race. That’s what this is about, that understanding of where we came from. Those riders that are gonna take off on Saturday? If they carry that knowledge in their heart they’re gonna be better for it. They’re gonna ride stronger and better, you know? Having that knowledge and respect? The land will give it back in return. That’s how it works. It’s that sacred and it’s that magical. We can’t forget those things and that’s why it’s important. Really when it comes down to it is the commonality of the human body and the human spirit. We all share things in commonality and it’s the magic of the Earth. The only way to tap into that is having expansion in your knowledge of everything. When it comes to land it’s about understanding that. Land acknowledgments to the tribes should happen at every race. In these kinds of sports, like this one and ultra running, that traverse former Native lands I think it’s really important to discuss that, for sure.

You’re also gonna leave with more of an understanding. You’re gonna take something with you that’s more positive, visceral and cultural. The only way to do that is creating these conversations, letting people see it in real time and in print and in sports and events. It starts here, and it goes from here to there, to bigger events. Or it goes from here to their family. Maybe someone tonight is gonna hear something really beautiful they’ve never heard before, and he or she has a family and they relate that new understanding to their kids. That’s going to start a new chain, a new way of being. That’s how it is. That’s how we’ve got to start.

Yeah, there’s worse things than using that Land Run name. There are always worse things. But for you and me, in this moment, in this time and this location and this community, this is important. We gotta start from ground zero. We gotta start from the grass roots place where it all begins. This is the discussion. Not the broader scope. We’re not talking about other things. We are talking about this. Stay on this, stay the course, let’s discuss it, have the dialogue and discuss why. Not the other things. This.

Empathy. You gotta have that. It starts here. It starts with things like this. You have conversations to get to the more important things. I don’t know what’s more important than people’s traumas and people’s hearts.