For Immediate Release

Harvard University and Boston Athletic Association Partner to Offer Native American Running: Culture, Health, Sport

Friday, April 15 – Monday, April 18

(March 22, 2016 CAMBRIDGE, MA) April 18, 2016 is the 120th running of the Boston Marathon, the premier international celebration of endurance, running, fitness and community.  It is also the 80th anniversary of the 1936 victory of Ellison "Tarzan" Brown, a Narragansett Native American, whose surge past John A. Kelley on the Newton Hills led to the naming of  the infamous "Heartbreak Hill."  Not many runners and fans, however, know that the Boston Marathon was won by another Native American (Thomas Longboat of the Onandaga Six Nations in 1907), and that running traditions have long been an important part of Native American culture.

This year, the Boston Athletic Association, the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology of Harvard University, and Harvard University Native American Program are collaborating on Native American Running: Culture, Health, Sport--a multi-day public event that will explore the history and importance of Native American running traditions, present efforts to support and encourage running in Native American communities today, and promote the many benefits of running. Originally conceived by Harvard evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman, whose research has explored running among Native peoples, with Davíd Carrasco, a Harvard historian who studies Mesoamerican religions, the event comprises a free public conference at Harvard, two sessions at the Boston Marathon Expo, youth/community activities, and Native competitors running the race.

“Every culture runs, but Native American running traditions are special," said Daniel Lieberman, Edwin M Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences, and chair of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology. "This event will explore and honor Native American running in all its rich diversity, from its origins to the present, including in the Boston Marathon.  We have much to learn about Native American running traditions, and we need them more than ever."

“For generations, Native communities have honored and continued to carry on running traditions, said Shelly Lowe, Executive Director of Harvard University Native American Program.  “This event will not just introduce these running traditions, but will provide insight into some of our greatest Native runners, their communities, and the cultural pride that comes with running.”  

“Native Americans have always been runners,” said Davíd Carrasco. “They run to communicate, to see, to hunt, to pray, to find life in the full. This gathering of runners, watchers, students, scholars and friends of running hopes to commemorate champions of the past and move our knowledge of Native American running into the quests for wisdom of future generations.”

Native American Running: Culture, Health, and Sport is presented by the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, Harvard University, in collaboration with the Boston Athletic Association, Harvard University Native American Program, Office of the Provost, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University.

Friday, April 15, 1:30–5:00 PM
Native American Running Conference
Harvard Science Center, Hall C, 1 Oxford Street, Cambridge. 
Free and open to the public. No registration necessary. See the website for the full schedule and details:

1:30 – 2: 30pm  

Welcoming Remarks, including John Peters, Jr. (Mashpee Wampanoag) Executive Director, MA Commission on Indian Affairs and Siobhan J. Brown (Mashpee Wampanoag)Lead Teacher, Mukayuhsak Weekuw (Wôpanâak Immersion Montessori School).

Keynote conversation between Billy Mills and Oren Lyons, moderated by Megan Hill (Oneida Nation WI), Director of Honoring Nations Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, Harvard Kennedy School.

Billy Mills (Oglala Lakota (Sioux), Olympic Gold Medalist, National Spokesperson and Founder, Running Strong for American Indian Youth

Oren Lyons (Haudenosaunee), Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation, Chief of the Onondaga Nation Council of Chiefs of the Six Nations of the Iroquois

2:40 – 5.00 pm

Moderators: Shelly Lowe (Navajo), Executive Director, Harvard University Native American Program; Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run and Natural Born Heroes

Philip Arnold, Associate Professor, Religion- Native American Studies, Syracuse University

Davíd Carrasco, Neil L. Rudenstine Professor for the Study of Latin America, Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University

Irma Chávez Cruz (Tarahumara), long distance runner

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert (Hopi), Associate Professor of History, University of Illinois

Tleena Ives (Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe), marathon runner and Tribal Liaison for the Department of Early Learning (Washington state), former Miss Indian USA

Daniel E. Lieberman, Edwin M. Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences, Harvard University, originated the idea for the Native American Running event

Dustin Martin (Navajo), Program Director, Wings of America

Alyssa Mt. Pleasant (Tuscarora), Assistant Professor of Native American Studies, University of Buffalo, 2015-16 Radcliffe Institute Fellow

Chris Sockalexis (Penobscot), Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Penobscot Nation and relative of Olympian and marathoner Andrew Sockalexis


Saturday, April 16    

11:00 AM   
Session at the John Hancock Sports & Fitness Expo, Hynes Convention Center. Free and open to the public.

Billy Mills

Session at the John Hancock Sports & Fitness Expo, Hynes Convention Center. Free and open to the public.

Moderator: Daniel E. Lieberman, Edwin M. Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences, Harvard University

Christopher McDougall, runner, author of Born to Run and Natural Born Heroes

Irma Chávez Cruz (Tarahumara)

Dustin Martin (Navajo), Program Director, Wings of America

Rob de Castella, 1986 Boston Marathon champion and a leader of the Indigenous Marathon Foundation in Australia (contact BAA)


Monday, April 18

Native runners scheduled to run the Marathon. Free and open to the public.

Irma Chávez Cruz (Tarahumara, 25) She lives in Chihuahua where she serves as the gobernador (mayor) of her community. She recently earned a masters degree in ecology from the Universidad Autonoma de Chihuahua. She works for Estatal (State) Secretaría de Acción Indígena and for the Chihuahua Institute of Culture developing a lexicon of Tarahumara language.

Arnulfo Quimare, (Tarahumara, 34) lives in Soriachique with his wife and four children. He works as a farmer, goat herder and runner. Since the age of 18 he has been the premier rarajipari runner, the traditional Tarahumara ball race. He has also won many ultramarathons, and achieved international fame when he beat Scott Jurek in a 50-mile canyon race as recorded in the book Born to Run. (Spanish speaker)

Honor runner Dale Lolar (Penobscot) Honoring Andrew Sockalexis (Penobscot), who ran second in the 1911 and 1912 Boston Marathons.

Wings of America runners

Running Strong for American Indian Youth runners

Indigenous Marathon Association runners


Media contacts:

Faith Sutter, Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology Media Specialist  617-495-3397

Marc Davis, Boston Athletic Association Communications Manager   617-778-1633