Anita Cardinal-Stewart is a Nêhiyaw (Cree) runner in Edmonton who has been touched by her sport. What started with 5Ks grew into ultra-marathons and she’s found the community welcoming and supportive. Being First Nations and just one generation away from potentially being a student at a Canadian Residential “School,” she felt compelled to host an event for Truth & Reconciliation Day, Thursday, September 30.
“As a runner, I was thinking of ways to give back and be active—put action behind words as we say—and that’s an example of Reconciliation, there must be action behind the words,” says Cardinal-Stewart, who worked with the trail runner Adam Erasmus on the Every Child Matters 2.15km, 5km and 10K run/walk this Thursday in Edmonton’s Kinsmen Park. “Adam and I decided to combine our love of running and do a run/walk, because what better way for us as runners to raise awareness, raise funds, and do something meaningful—like I said, to put action behind our words.”
It was after the unmarked graves of residential school victims were unearthed in Kamloops, British Columbia that Cardinal-Stewart was moved to action. She says Indigenous people always knew the truth about our children who died attending these institutions and of the Unmarked Graves but that, after the discovery, the mainstream Canadian press and society could no longer deny these long-held Indigenous truths any longer. First, she organized a vigil. Then, after thinking about her experiences as a runner—how she’d grown wary of frequently being the only visibly Indigenous runner at running events—she decided to make her voice heard. A third-year law student, she’s committed to being an agent of change.
“We want to make the sport more diverse and inclusive and while there’s a lot of shyness in joining running groups or races from some Indigenous people, it’s something our ancestors did not only for necessity, but it also brought joy and we’re excited to reclaim that,” she says. “There are so many amazing Indigenous runners from across Turtle Island and there’s been this incredible resurgence of runners connecting to the land again in our communities. We’re excited for the future of running for Indigenous people.”
Thursday’s event in Edmonton is sold-out, but Cardinal-Stewart—who can be found on Instagram @runswiththewind, Adam is @trailworship—says there’s an opportunity to run on your own and donate to three Indigenous charities. The charities are IRSSS, Water Warriors YEG and Braver Hills House. Both her and Adam are constantly updating their run details and they’re currently building a website, because Thursday’s event is not a one-off acknowledgment. Running is empowering and healing, says Cardinal-Stewart. And we can come together as a community—to raise money, raise awareness and help bring about meaningful, lasting change.
“Orange Shirt Day is not a holiday, it’s a national day for Truth and Reconciliation,” she says. “Reconciliation is a process not the end goal—and Truth is at its core.”