Caribou Legs is a man running. A Gwich’in messenger bringing a message about missing and murdered indigenous women and domestic violence. His ultimate goal is to see everyone treating women with care, respect, and honor. A slender man, Caribou Legs is immediately recognizable wearing his ‘makeup’; a different pattern using white, yellow, red and black; and wearing a buffalo breastplate; he carries his four-direction drum, which carries his medicines and food inside.
He is rapidly approaching the halfway point of Canada, Chippewa Falls, just north of Sault Ste. Marie. He began this run on May 8th, alone – no support team. With a small backpack weighing less than 15 pounds he runs eight hours a day. Keeping the weight down helps Caribou Legs to run more efficiently – but also hinders the kinds of help he can accept despite being grateful for the thought. A shower, bed or even a couch, a hot meal; small things to us, but treasured by him.
It isn’t an easy path that he travels as a messenger across Canada, but Caribou Legs has not had an easy life. As a youth he was a talented athlete, coming from a family of athletes. Most notably, his aunts Shirley and Sharon Firth who were introduced to skiing through the Territorial Experimental Ski Training Program. They became members of the Canadian cross-country ski team, competing for 17 years. The sisters won 79 medals, including 48 Canadian championships; and competed in the 72, 76, 80 and 84 Winter Olympics. They were the third and fourth indigenous inductees into the Sports Hall of Fame.
Despite their success and positive example, Caribou Legs was like many other indigenous youth, living with disrespect and violence. As an adult he moved to Vancouver, working, then becoming entangled in addiction for many years, until an elder told him to start running – turning back the clock to being a youth. That was the birth of his new life – an ultra runner, a marathoner who finished the Boston Marathon running a 1:22 half marathon, placing 46th out of 3,500 men. His running though hasn’t been without incident – in 2012 he was hit by a truck while running with a group of runners, cutting his foot, smashing his elbow and his chin. While recovering, he realized that he needed to give back, as an addict he had done nothing to help others – instead taking.
Caribou Legs life took on new spirit. He ran across Canada and to the Yukon to raise awareness for preserving our resource of water. Last year, his sister was killed by domestic violence, inspiring this year’s run for murdered and missing indigenous women. As he goes, he also promotes good physical health and mental health. He has a message of hope for indigenous youth, their culture can save them, ‘living in ceremony’ is the right path. Along the run, Caribou Legs shares this message. He hopes to be able to share this message with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa.
In the Algoma District he will be doing a presentation at the Blind River Treatment Centre, Thursday, August 25th from 12 Noon until 2.
When this run is complete, Caribou Legs has accepted another challenge. He has been invited to walk 1000 km to Attawapiskat in December with Joseph Koostachin and 10 others on the ice road, each pulling a sled full of supplies from 6 am to 6 pm.