NCAI President Fawn Sharp to Lead 20th Anniversary Sovereignty Run Across Indian Country

The following is the text of a September 13, 2022, news release from the National Congress of American Indians.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On October 3, 2022, National Congress of American Indians President and Vice President of the Quinault Indian Nation Fawn Sharp will again lead the 2022 Sovereignty Run, beginning on the Cherokee Nation Reservation in Tahlequah, Oklahoma and ending in Sacramento, California. Sharp organized the first Sovereignty Run in 2002, which called attention to the erosion of tribal sovereignty on reservation lands. Similarly, the 2022 Sovereignty Run is intended to raise awareness of new attacks on tribal sovereignty and garner support for Tribal Nations in the face of harmful Supreme Court decisions (Castro-Huerta v. Oklahoma).

In addition to raising support for Tribal Nations, the Sovereignty Run has also been revived, in part, to commemorate the historic reinstatement earlier this summer of Native American athlete Jim Thorpe’s 1912 Olympic wins. Runners from Tribal Nations, Native American organizations, and other partners will join Sharp on the 1,787-mile relay. One of the organizations joining Sharp is Bright Path Strong, a non-profit organization created to amplify authentic Native American voices and stories, stress the importance of Native American representation, and continue Jim Thorpe’s legacy of community service. “Bright Path” was Thorpe’s Sac and Fox name. Thorpe was also of Potawatomi tribal heritage.

“We are in a critical time where, once again, our sovereignty is being threatened, and Jim Thorpe’s home state of Oklahoma is ground-zero,” said NCAI President Fawn Sharp. “Tribal Nations are strongest when we are unified and create our own ‘bright path’ forward together. The time to raise our voices—and collective awareness—is now. We are proud to dedicate this journey to fight for our sovereignty to the memory and legacy of Jim Thorpe, and we will carry Jim’s strength, tenacity, and courage with us every step of the way.”

Twenty years ago, the Sovereignty Run began on the Quinault Reservation in Washington, spanned 12 states, and ended on the steps of the Supreme Court. Sharp was inspired to start the run after attending heated NCAI meetings in Washington D.C. over what she called “terrible precedents restricting tribal jurisdiction.” Those meetings happened to fall on September 11, 2001. In addition to confronting attacks on tribal sovereignty, she was also thrust into the worst terrorist attacks of recent history.

Upon returning to the Quinault Reservation, Sharp said running helped her cope with the gravity of both challenges and inspired her to start the Run to encourage and uplift others.

Now, partners like the Cherokee Nation, are joining in the effort to uplift Indian Country and to raise awareness alongside NCAI.

“The Cherokee Nation stands with our brothers and sisters at NCAI in bringing awareness to the attacks across this country on tribal sovereignty, especially in Oklahoma—the epicenter,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “In the past two years, the Five Tribes here in Oklahoma have been challenged on our treaty rights, rooted in law by those who are trying to chip away at tribes and our rights to self-govern. We have taken to the U.S. Supreme Court steps twice and been reaffirmed that our reservations have always existed, and yet presented with more legal challenges. We look forward to this run and having our Native voices—and running shoes—carrying our message that our Tribal Nations are stronger today and that we will never waiver when it comes to our sovereignty.”

Nedra Darling, a co-founder of Bright Path Strong and Sharp’s longtime friend, said the Sovereignty Run is an ideal partner event for the organization. Darling said the Sovereignty Run exemplifies values important to Jim Thorpe, like staying active, helping others and bringing Native Americans of all Tribal Nations together to support a common cause.

“Two years ago, Bright Path Strong set out to do what others tried unsuccessfully to do for decades. Our goal was to fully restore Jim Thorpe’s records as the sole gold medal winner in the 1912 Olympic Decathlon and Pentathlon. And after nearly 110 years, justice for Jim has finally been served,” said Nedra Darling, co-founder of Bright Path Strong. “With the help of tribal partners like NCAI and the thousands of people who joined us in petitioning the International Olympic Committee, attempts to erase Jim Thorpe from history are over. The Sovereignty Run celebrates his winning spirit, our resilience and perseverance as Native people, and helps show we are stronger when we work together. Reviving the Run is a special way to remind the world, but most importantly, each other, that we are at our best when we work collectively on behalf of Native nations and Native people.”

The Sovereignty Run will wind its way through five states before concluding in Sacramento, California, on October 31, 2022— the day tribal leaders from across the United States will convene to defend tribal sovereignty at the NCAI 79th Annual Convention & Marketplace. NCAI’s Annual Convention serves as the largest meeting of American Indian and Alaska Native Tribal Nations to discuss policy and build consensus on how best to defend and grow tribal sovereignty.

For more information about the Sovereignty Run and its events, visit

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