WALLA WALLA - It took a little more than 24 hours for 93 relay runners and almost as many walkers to go from Toppenish to Fort Walla Walla in the Yakama Nation Museum & Cultural Center 30th Anniversary Treaty Relay.
And they did it ahead of schedule, noted Yakama Nation Elder Davis Washines.
"You know they always talk about Indian time, but you were three hours ahead of time. So now the new Indian time is three hours ahead of time. And I just want you to know I am proud of what you did," Washines said.
The 140-mile relay was broken down into segments of about 10 miles each, with runners taking turns within each segment, running from one to seven miles.
Among those participating was "elite runner" class Brenda Billy, who likes to train for marathons in her spare time and averages about 30 to 35 miles per week.
"To me it was important to be here for our community. I have lived in Bellevue for over 20 years, but I still feel a connection to my people, and I feel it is important to help out," Billy said.
This weekend's run was the first time the Yakama Nation made Walla Walla its destination. The first run was in 1980, when 43 runners made it over the pass to Seattle, where they then extended a personal invite to the cultural center to the mayor and other dignitaries.
Then in 1990, tribal members ran to Olympia to extend a similar invite to politicians at the Capital.
On Saturday, when roughly 20 runners finished the last leg of the relay at around 10:30 a.m., an invite was extended and a gift of a ceremonial pouch and Yakama flag was presented to Museum Director James Payne and Mayor Barbara Clark. The pouch served as a relay baton, as it was passed from member to member along the way.
For Archie Washines, 62, this decade's run proved harder than the previous two years (no run occurred in 2000). But Washines also added that the hardships helped him remember the struggles his ancestors lived through before and after the signing of the Treaty of 1885, which was also commemorated with the relay.
"It was their journey that we simulated, that we wanted to recreate. The hardships of the run was their hardships. It's just recreating history," he said.
Washines went on to explain how before the run began, a blessing ceremony was held at the Cultural Center for the hundreds of runners and walkers, as well as the blessing of a beaded pouch and Yakama flag.
In return for the gift of the pouch and flag, Payne presented the Yakama people with an American flag, a replica of the Jefferson Peace Medal and a case of the museum's book, "Soldiers, Pioneers & Indian People."
Davis Washines added that the next Yakama Nation Museum & Cultural Center run will be in 2020, and will most likely be to Spokane, which is more than 200 miles away.
"There is a sense of pride that goes along with it (the run) ... It is just acknowledging that we are still thriving," Washines added.
Alfred Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8325.