Four Corners Prayer Run stops in Cortez to rest and refuel – The Journal
Participation grew as the 232-mile race progressed through towns across the region
The Four Corners Missing and Murdered Indigenous People’s Prayer Run arrived in Cortez Friday night.
A group of 15 runners and 30 event supporters gathered at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church around 7 p.m. for a meal and were asked to stay the night. A dozen locals were present to support the participants, and a group prayer was given by a Navajo elder.
The four-day prayer race traverses 232 miles through area towns and Navajo and Ute Mountain Ute reservations. The event began and will end at Montezuma Creek, with the runners involved taking turns each day.
Organizer Martina Maryboy ran 9 miles on Friday said everything was going well. She said the number of participants increased as the group progressed.
“We have had a lot of support and generosity from the community. Anyone can participate at any time. It was really heartwarming,” she said.
In Blanding, Utah, a community shelter housed the runners and the next morning staff, volunteers and children joined in prayer for a few miles.
While passing through Dove Creek, a trailer carrying the portable potties broke and a Dolores County Sheriff’s Deputy helped fix it.
The event began after a series of heavy snowstorms in the Four Corners. The weather was sunny, although a bit chilly, the runners said.
Michael Vernon Shortey, a Navajo, often participates in prayer runs to raise awareness about missing and murdered Indigenous peoples and social justice issues.
His uncle Lance Dennison has been missing for two weeks in the Beshbitoh Valley area of the Navajo Reservation. A police investigation is ongoing and foul play is suspected.
“It really hits home. He’s been with my prayers,” said Shortey, who ran about 10 miles. “We are here because we are not afraid to speak out about struggles and losses, we are not afraid to speak out in the face of injustice,”
He said connecting with people about the cause builds strength and solidarity and “uplifts the spirit”.
Event organizer Chiara Amoroso of Native Search Solutions said the entourage of runners and vehicles carrying signs about the missing drew attention along the way. She hands out flyers with information about the issues and talks to spectators.
“We’ve seen interest, people are donating, they’re coming and wondering what we’re doing,” she said.
Runners Pasha and Cecil Nierenhusen traveled from Winterland, California to participate.
“There are so many people missing and no answers, it’s so relevant to raise awareness,” Pascha said. “Coming together in unity hopefully opens doors for action to address these issues. It’s been an eye opener for me.”
The couple regularly take part in prayer runs, which they say are becoming increasingly popular across the country to educate the public about social issues, injustice and human suffering.
“It’s a humbling experience and also a liberating experience to take action to run in nature and meet new people. That’s what drives us.”
Kedesha Etsitty joined the group on Friday with her children, including daughter Mauloa Benally, 7, who ran 3 miles.
“I wanted them to participate because it’s a message that not only adults are going missing, but also little children,” Etsitty said.
The prayer run continues on Saturday, with a refreshment stop in Towoac around 9 a.m. at the Tipi Village next to the casino.
There will be a blessing by Tribal Elder Terry Knight Sr. Representatives and Tribal Council officials will also speak.
The riders will continue on Saturday until Beclabito. On Sunday, runners will continue to Montezuma Creek and feast on St. Christopher’s Mission. There will be a presentation on the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous peoples and an open mic for people to share their stories.