Run! Punk Run!
IN CONVERSATION WITH JORDAN MARIE DANIEL
Introduce yourself, please?
My name is Jordan Marie Brings Three White Horses Daniel, I am a citizen of the Kul Wicasa Oyate, the Lower Brule Indian Reservation, and I am Kul Wicasa Lakota and Diné, which is also known as Navajo.
And you live in Los Angeles, correct?
Yep. I currently live and reside on occupied Tongva land, which is also known as Los Angeles.
What part of LA do you reside in?
I live in the Beachwood Canyon area near the Hollywood sign.
Nice, I used to live up there. I like it up there. Even though you’re so close to everything, you can still feel like you're in a little bit of nature and separated the whole city.
Yeah, definitely. It makes you feel a little bit disconnected from LA, which is really nice.
Could you explain some of the main principles the Lakota people live by and how that informs your outlook on life and how you approach everything?
Yes, our culture, our traditions and our heritage are the center of who we are, and our values that we choose to live our life by. Several of these values have incredible purpose and meaning, and it's how you identify to those three - how you’ll build your life, into who you are and what kind of relative you are to your community and the world around you. For me, that comes down to honor, compassion and wisdom, and being able to learn from my community. Being able to support them and give back to them as much as I can. Through that, I'm able to organize, help fundraise and help lead initiatives and virtual events to be able to give back with the programs that I'm managing through the organization that I founded called Rising Hearts. A couple of our programs are the Mitakuye Oyasin - "We are all related" (lakota translation) covid-19 relief program where we deliver and distribute face masks, shields, antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizers, while establishing partnerships to be able to continue this collaborative effort of protecting our relatives and communities and making sure that they have what they need to feel safe and comfortable. In terms of health and wellness, we have another initiative called Indigenous Wellness Through Movement. We’re in month two of this series where we’re basically creating a platform that is accessible because we want wellness to be accessible. We want people to be able to practice self care and self love, especially now, more than ever when we're all experiencing some really hard times. It's been stressful with multiple things that everyone is doing, especially the heart work that is happening. And I mean heart, not hard. The heart, your čanté that guides and motivates us to do this work every day for our relatives and communities. We've had 15 sessions for Native American Alaskan Native Heritage Month, where it's anything from powwow yoga and other forms of yoga and pilates, to movement, strength and dynamics, core, high intensity interval training - just anything that can be accessible to everybody. It’s an amazing platform that is growing into a place - to be able to learn from indigenous instructors, wellness advocates and voices - to be able to learn what decolonizing wellness looks like and what it means, and how we can incorporate that into our everyday lives - so that way, we are able to take care of our center, take care of our heart and take care of ourselves so we can be good to each other, and continue that Being a Good Relative notion.
When did activism begin for you? Was there a moment that radicalized you?
I've known since eighth grade that I've wanted to be an advocate for my people. As a young girl, I saw the beauty and resilience within my tribe and my relatives. I also saw some of the hardships that native people face. When I moved away from my tribe and culture, I was in a very rural, white town in Maine. I started seeing the things - that I saw within my tribe - happen to other tribes and communities, and these aren’t isolated incidents within just my community. Understanding and seeing that at a young age inspired me to always stay working and be committed and devoted to my relatives into my community. I believe a lot of other activists would say we’re born to be an advocate and born into these situations. It’s not by choice. It became clear to me back in 2016 I was asked to organize the Run for Water Rally to organize something to welcome the Standing Rock Youth who were running over 2000 miles to DC in order to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline. And because I’m known as “Jordan the runner and athlete,” I was asked to do something. So I organized a running event, to run from the Supreme Court to the Army Corps of Engineers. Seeing our youth take that stand and that leadership - willing to fight and do whatever possible to protect and secure our resources and our water for the next generations and for relatives now - just motivated me more to hold myself accountable and being a better relative and advocate. I started organizing more rallies and protest marches and collaborating with other groups and becoming a voice on podcasts and stages, helping anyway I can to pave a new path forward.
What does land back mean to you?
Land back to me means, one acknowledging that these lands that we're on, especially if you're in North America, Turtle Island, as we call it, were stolen. Were illegally taken.
That our communities were either forced to give up their lands, or, the communities on Turtle Island that are unseated - people who never gave up their rights to their lands, even though they were still stolen. We need to acknowledge the true history of this country: of genocide and enslavement. And that history built the foundations of the country we have now. Right now we're seeing the instability of that crumbling. Finally, people are standing up and speaking to the injustices. Land back is also being able to return the lands back to indigenous knowledge keepers and back to indegenous stewardship. As we are seeing now, in the climate crisis and all of the wildfires [in the west], the conversations of prescribed burns are finally being discussed. These are incredible tools and mechanisms to help ensure that these wildfires don't continue to be as bad. We can better manage them, and it could be better for the ecosystem. Indigenous cultural burns are a part of history, happening years before white settlers arrived on these lands. Now we're starting to see indigenous firefighters, and knowledge keepers about cultural burns working with fire management and the US forestry services. The government is finally talking about the importance of prescribed cultural burns and how it can better be for the environment and for communities. Hopefully eliminating the climate crisis, one thing at a time.
You’re making a film about that currently?
My partner and I are doing a portrait project. The first series started focusing on a bunch of different voices - black, brown, Asian..... who are rooted in our communities and doing the work. Talking about their experience in social injustice, climate injustice. The end of their statements that went along with their portraits really inspired people to vote for the 2020 election. So we’re transitioning and continuing this portrait project into talking about the climate crisis and the firefighters. We need to give visibility to this issue because everyone always talks about the fires, but only right in the moment. People forget about the wildfires until the next big one happens. We want to reframe perspectives of how people view fires - that yeah, they can be scary, but sometimes they're necessary. Fires are good for the soil, good for new growth, good.
What is the link between running and activism for you? Does running affect the way you perceive or frame your relationship with the land that you run on?
Running to me has always been about representation at the beginning. Because I'm a 4th generation runner, it was a way to connect with my family and surroundings. Overtime, it grew into really focusing on my surroundings, connecting with the trails, connecting with nature, disconnecting from work or school or whatever it is that's happening in my day to day...to reconnect back with myself in the land. But now my running is no longer about me or for me. I still have my own personal goals that I would love to still chase down, but it's about the intersection of advocacy and running, and I've always been known as Jordan the runner for as long as I can remember…. since I was 10 years old. Last year at the 2019 Boston Marathon I was running for and carrying prayers for an injustice and epidemic that's happening in our communities, and I ran for them. Well, that just blew up, and created an opportunity for me to have these discussions with the running community, which in my opinion lacks in diversity and inclusion. Now I’m inspired to film this series project with my partner called Running With Purpose beginning production at the start of 2021. Simultaneously this is gonna lead to the Running With Purpose virtual running community also launching for 2021. This we hope will help lead to the diversity and inclusion aspect of the running community. Making sure that there is visibility and support for indigenous and black and brown and Muslim to LGBTQ athletes and runners.
I'm really excited to be organizing the Running on Native Land Initiative, which I think when it comes to the trail or to road races, there is a sense of entitlement when we come to run because it's all about running fast. It's about fitness and running fast or, um, you know, there's a little bit of self entitlement, which is totally fine. I'm a competitor. I understand it. But now, because I have this new knowledge of land acknowledgment, I think, what does it mean to run on indigenous lands and their communities? We need to give visibility and support and acknowledge the lands that these races are happening on. I've created a tool kit that will hopefully be able to work with race directors and event directors so that they can start doing land acknowledgments at every single race. I would love for every single race in the future to be doing this, them reaching out to local indigenous communities if running is happening so the people can offer their blessing and prayer, as well as giving X amount of race entry spots so that they can participate in the event. That way we can make a more welcoming running community where all people can feel safe and included.
Can you tell us more about the leg paint you wear?
The leg paint has always been part of my prayer runs (as well as on my arms, along with the handprint), even at the 2019 Boston Marathon where my first prayer run for MMIW happened. MMIWG2S stands for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two Spirits (Someone embodying both genders, known within Native communities and cultures - more specifically with our Navajo and Hopi, Tewa relatives, but is a term that if a Native person identifies this way, they call themselves Two Spirit).
What do you usually think about when you're running?
That's a big question, haha! I mean, anything from enjoying the smells, the open sky, to see the trees and hearing the leaves crunch or the rocks. Sadly that doesn't happen too often because my mind is completely filled with all the work that I'm doing. I’m running and brainstorming a lot of the time or reflecting on the current state of events of how we've gotten here. Thinking about the election. How can I bring in more allies? How have our BIPOC communities have been and have felt especially for black and indigenous folks.
Most recently I ran all the way up to the mount in San Francisco, which is pretty extreme, but I kept thinking, how are we in a world where hundreds and hundreds of people have been dying from this virus? How is no one taking it seriously? I work at the School of Medicine at UCLA, providing support on all of these covid projects and clinical trials. I see the data, I see the science and I'm just thinking, how can people not believe this? How can people not see that white supremacy...systems of oppression and racism… clearly exist in this country? The emotional toll that it takes on the BIPOC community? I was just like, so frustrated on this run … and then I came to this big giant rock. I was just like, I'm gonna take a breather right here because this is pretty exhausting. And the first thing I see is this giant plaque on the rock,with a big, long quote from a very distant relative of mine, Chief Sitting Bull, and basically his quote encapsulated everything that I was thinking about on that run. He was basically talking about
how settlers came and formed this relationship while our lands are slowly being taken away and us trying to be there to support them and then all of a sudden, a change where greed is coming into play and buildings are suddenly built up and…. seeing his words during that time in the 1800’s...predicted everything that is happening right now at this very moment. It was just so surreal reading those words after I had been thinking about this as I was running up the mountain that day. It gave me some validation on how I was feeling... but then immediately inspired me to be like, nope. Don't focus on the negative. Don't focus on the bad. Yes, bad shit is happening. But we have every opportunity right now to fight for a better future in a better world. And luckily, that work is starting to happen and it's growing.
Are you hopeful for the future?
Yes, I am hopeful. I truly believe we are at this very important time in our lives. 2020 really kind of laid it all out there and made it all visible for so many to see. We have either two decisions: one where we stay the same, and stay the course…..We're not gonna survive. Or one where we work towards that transformational change - that intersectional movement and growth between all of our communities, building that understanding and learning. I think we're heading in that direction. It's gonna be slow moving, but I think we're gonna be okay. I think our next generations are gonna have it better than what we have today.
What are two or three books that people should read to educate themselves on on all these matters? Like maybe some suggestions?
Oh, yes. Um, I would say definitely “How to be an Anti Racist” is a great one. By Ibram X. Kendi. would say Custer Died For Your Sins, by Vine Deloria. It's an older book, but incredibly informative and really speaks to everything that we're seeing today. Also, The Great Vanishing Act, A Prayer For The City, Braiding Street Grass and Decolonizing Wealth.
Are you a fan of punk rock or it’s ideals.
Yes, definitely a fan. The music and it's ideals, especially because I feel like it encapsulates everything I wanted to be when I was little: I wanted to be very vocal and outspoken, speaking about issues that matter, calling out injustices and corruption, and giving visibility through music and lyrics to talk about these issues.
Do you have any advice that someone's giving you over the years? That kind of sticks with you and you remind yourself?
Practicing self care, that you can't be good for the movement or for the communities you're fighting for. If you're not taking care of yourself and as an advocate and an organizer, you’ll face getting burned out and it can take us away from this work. And I am working on this myself, but trying to not say yes to everything and spreading myself thin.
What does self-care mean to you?
Practicing self care means a whole lot of things for different people, but I think some easy ways are setting boundaries. It's reaching out and finding a therapist to talk about things, so you're not bottling up these emotions. Practicing more yoga. For me, trying something different and new other than running to help focus on my anxiety...It could mean going out for a walk, or it could mean eating your breakfast outside every single morning because that's how you should start your day rather than, you know, bringing breakfast to your desktop and starting work right away. It can go a lot of different ways.
How can people get involved with some of the causes and how can we help and become involved in some of them?
Donating is always the best option. Rising Hearts is newly fiscally sponsored. I've been organizing and leading it since 2016 since Standing Rock in the Dakota Access Pipeline fight to protect the water and the lands. Ever since then, it's been primarily focused grassroots. Everything was for free: out of pocket organizing rallies and marches and hosting panels. All that work we are still doing. But now we are in a place where we want to be able to give back. We want to be able to pay our speakers and pay our voices and advocates that are part of these movements. So now Rising Hearts is fiscally sponsored. We are accepting donations and doing multiple fundraising campaigns. I think we're on our fifth virtual running race event that we've organized since June. We’re creating some [physical] products to help bring in more donations, but also creating an awareness and community where people can come in as allies and friends. While continuously uplifting indigenous voices and building a better world for future generations of all black, brown, Asian, Muslim, LGBTQ, non binary people, disability voices… as we work in the world of diversity, equity and inclusion and what justice looks like. If people have ideas about uplifting the programming at Rising Hearts, please reach out. And when we’re out of this pandemic - when it’s safe to - people can volunteer and work with us. We’re always looking for ways to engage and inform.
Any last words?
I would say that we all have a responsibility to be a good relative to each other and to have an open heart and open mind. We all have an opportunity to influence change. Big or small, it doesn't matter if its one person or hundreds of people. One person can make such an impact one other person and that person creates this ripple effect of change that I hope to see more of. So my biggest advice to anyone is, you know, don't be too hard on yourself. Follow the path that you’re passionate and curious about. Don't be afraid to reach out to others that are in this work and in this space. Learn from them and grow. Become a voice and an organizer - your voice is your biggest tool and your right! People want to hear you. Don't be afraid to use your voice!