Editor's Note: This interview is in the current edition of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan's "Tribal Observer." monthly newspaper. The Native News Network is publishing it today with the permission of the Tribe.
Carrie Garcia in Native Currents. Discussion »
When something is so compassionate, we put our heart and emotions into it.
For Dirk Whitebreast, competing in marathons and raising the awareness to the Native youth about suicide is his driven force. Marathon athlete, motivational speaker, and the youngest to serve as a former secretary of his Tribe the Sac & Fox Meskwaki Nation, Whitebreast touched the hearts of many in the Saginaw Chippewa tribal community.
Dirk Whitebreast, Sac & Fox, Shares His Story on the Isabella Indian Reservation
The community with open arms welcomed Whitebreast as he was busily talking to local area schools, visiting with the SCIT afterschool program, speaking to community members at the Ziibiwing, and not to mention being a keynote speaker at the SCIT Parks and Recreation Basketball banquet.
Being able to share the story of tragedy, battling addiction and triumphing into a remarkable and passionate young leader for a cause, created a hero and for some an inspiration for change.
His life began with the onset of drug and alcohol addiction and had gotten shaken up when in 2003 his 18 year old sister Darcy Jo Keahna committed suicide.
At that moment in his life he wanted to take control by being a stronger and healthier leader not only for his community but being a positive role model for all of the communities in Indian country.
The path of becoming healthier was a challenge he had to come in terms with. Encouragement from his friends and close family members helped him break the trials and tribulations that blocked him.
is journey of having a friend encourage him to run a half marathon turned into running full marathons from all over the United States. Throughout his running career, Whitebreast has participated in a total of 40 marathons.
One of his toughest challenges was running 10 marathons in 30 days. The challenge, which equaled to 262 miles, was to honor his sister and to promote the Center for Native American Youth's mission about raising awareness of suicide in the youth.
For Whitebreast, this is his true calling.
He currently serves on the Board of Advisors for the Center for Native American Youth at The Aspen Institute.
Running made a powerful impact not only in the community, but also in Washington DC.
"I see that running is aiming towards more demographics,"
"Once I started telling people that I was a marathon runner this is what I do, people started getting encouraged by it. I am coming to the realization that there are not a lot of Indians who are doing this and there are not a lot of Indian males doing this as well. It wasn't until I sat on the panel at Washington DC that they made it a point what I was doing is extraordinary and I am doing more than what is expected. I was representing Native Americans in a good way."
The courageous, caring, and soft spoken Mr. Whitebreast sat down to talk about the beginning stages of running, his personal mantra, future marathons he will participate in, and how his story changed the life of one person.
Tribal Observer: How long have you been running?
Dirk Whitebreast: I have been running since the fall of 2003. The first two years were a little off and on because of circumstances in my life. I had a friend who talked to me about her dad. Her dad was a marathon runner when he was younger. She had convinced me to run a half marathon. I ran the half marathon and at that time I was a little younger and kind of cocky about it. I told her that I was going to run more marathons than her dad. That was one of the initial motivations. As I got better at it I was like, wow this is a really powerful thing. I can only be thankful on what running has shown me so far.
This was early in my running career. When I started running in the beginning I started thinking about what I was learning from it. I told myself that I was getting good at running and that the things that I learned from running I can apply to different parts of my life. I attempted to do that. The ethics that I learned from running, the motivation, the ambition, the goal setting and striving I put those into my daily job, my employment and also tried to use that in my relationships with my friends and family to be a stronger companion, to be a stronger relative and to be a stronger member for my family.
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posted July 11, 2012 9:20 am edt
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