On Sunday, August 14, Running Strong for American Indian Youth® 2020 Dreamstarter Kutoven “Ku” Stevens, 18, (Yerington Paiute) of Yerington, Nevada, held his second “Remembrance Run,” to the Stewart Indian Boarding School in Carson City, Nevada, through the desert and mountains from the Yerington Paiute Reservation to honor the children who ran from Stewart, as did his “togo” (great-grandfather), and remember those who never came home.
For his Dreamstarter project, Ku and participants completed the Remembrance Run in the opposite direction from his first run in 2021, to bringing offerings from his tribe in Yerington to the graves at Stewart.
Together, 40 runners journeyed 50-miles from the Yerington Paiute reservation to honor Ku’s great grandfather, Frank Quinn, who made the same journey multiple times, as an 8-year-old escaping from Stewart. The runners also carried traditional offerings and sacred blessings from the mountains to the graves at Stewart
When asked ‘how has Running Strong impacted you?’ Ku responded saying, “It’s a really special program and I feel like, if you have a dream and you have a purpose that you can sense, chase after it as hard as you can.”
Part of this is dream is supporting his people, and he says, “I’m Native and I’m proud of it!”
To conclude their journey, Running Strong’s spokesperson, Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills had the honor of walking in with the dozens of runners to meet over 100 community members, welcoming everyone to their end destination.
Ku, an accomplished long-distance runner and state cross-country champion, describes Billy as “a hero of mine forever,” and upon being named a Dreamstarter was invited by Billy and his wife, Pat, to visit them at their home. “I was so blown away!”
Attending dignitaries included U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak who concluded the event thanking Ku and Billy “for what you guys do; raising awareness and helping everybody heal.”
Ku’s intent in organizing the first Remembrance Run was “to raise awareness of the issue, to provide a way for my people to express how the loss of culture they experienced, because of the governments boarding school policies, still affects their lives today, and to create an environment for healing.
“I decided to honor those who survived and those who never came home by using my running ability to retrace my togo’s escape through the desert and mountains.
Through the 2022 Dreamstarter grant, Ku is one of ten Dreamstarters implementing projects to promote social action. His Dreamstarter project brought over 150+ individuals together and impacted lives from Nevada, Oregon, New York, and more.
“I hope to one day follow in his footsteps and compete at the Olympic level, and being labeled a Native underdog on that day, will only spur me on, and I will run with Billy in my heart.”